The Best and Worst States to Be a Woman

Introducing the U.S. Women, Peace and Security Index

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How Does Your State Rank on Women’s Rights & Opportunities?

 The Georgetown indexprovides the most comprehensive measurement of women’s rights and opportunities in America. Our research reveals vast differences across the country, with Massachusetts scoring almost four times better than Louisiana. There are clear regional patterns – as well as important variations within regions.

Best and Worst States

Bar chart showing the three best and worst states for women as calculated by the WPS index’s three basic dimensions of women’s well being: inclusion, justice, and security. Massachusetts is ranked as the best state while Louisiana is ranked as the worst state.
Best and Worst States Graph Description

Bar chart showing the three best and worst for women. The US WPS Index incorporates three basic dimensions of women’s well-being: inclusion (economic, social, political); justice (formal laws and informal discrimination); and security (at the individual, community, and societal levels). States’ scores range from 0 (worst possible) to 1 (best possible). Massachusetts ranks as the best state for women’s equality with a .709. Connecticut ranks second with a .696 and is followed in third by the District of Columbia with a .695. The last three states represented on the bar chart showcase the worst ranking states. Arkansas ranks as the third-worst state with a .231, Mississippi comes in as the second-worst state with a .182, and Louisiana is the worst state for women with a .167.

  • Inclusion

    • Full-time employment
    • Working but poor
    • College completion
    • Representation in state legislature
  • Security

    • Experienced intimate partner violence
    • Gun-related deaths
    • Safety walking alone in neighborhood at night
    • Health care affordability
  • Justice

    • Seven key legal protections for women
    • Discriminatory attitudes
    • Access to reproductive health care
    • Maternal mortality

American women face serious inequalities and injustices

  • Inclusion

    In 7 states, fewer than 20% of state legislators are women.

  • Security

    In 17 States, fewer than half of women feel safe walking alone at night within a mile of their neighborhood.

  • Justice

    In 37 States, domestic abusers subject to protective orders are not required to relinquish firearms.

Learn how we selected these indicators
a portrait of Dianna Payton
"The good old boy system: it is real and it is still active in Louisiana… The decisions that are being made are not in our interest. They are not taking our needs into account."
Dianna Payton, CEO of YWCA Greater Baton Rouge

A Deeply Unequal United States

Women’s wellbeing varies across state lines– especially their legal protections. The state a woman lives in determines her ability to file a workplace sexual harassment claim, her level of protection from an abusive partner, whether she can take paid time off for caregiving, and more. No state offers full legal protections of women’s rights; six states offer none.

Graph highlighting seven US states and the legal protections granted or withheld from women. Oregon ranks best with six granted protections while Louisiana ranks last with zero granted protections. The seven legal protections analyzed include minimum wage, protection from sexual harassment, removal of firearms from abusers, paid parental leave, unemployment benefits, the equal rights amendment, and in-person counseling before an abortion.
Women’s Legal Protection Graph Description

This graph highlights seven US states and the legal protections they currently do or do not provide for women. No state offers all seven legal protections. In this graph, Oregon is ranked as the best state for women’s legal protections while Louisiana is ranked last.
The legal protections are:
a.) Minimum wage set above low-income threshold is granted by Maine and Arizona
b.) Workers Protected from Sexual Harassment is granted by Oregon, Illinois, Maine, and Oklahoma
c.) Firearms Removed from Domestic Violence Abusers is granted by Oregon, Illinois, and Pennsylvania
d.) Mandated Paid Parental Leave is granted by Oregon
e.) Unemployment Benefits for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence is granted by Oregon and Illinois
f.) Equal Rights Amendment Ratified is granted by Oregon, Illinois, Maine, and Pennsylvania
g.) No mandated in-person counseling before abortion is granted by Oregon, Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma

Racial Disparities Among Women in the United States

Gender inequalities are compounded by racial injustice. Between Black and white women, gaps are most marked in women’s college completion, state legislative representation, and maternal mortality. One of many striking facts: in New Jersey, maternal mortality rates for Black women are almost quadruple those for white women.

Largest Racial Gaps in Women's Maternal Mortality

Graph showing current racial disparities in maternal mortality. Six states are represented by analyzing the deaths out of every 100,000 live births in the US in both Black and white women. New Jersey represents the largest gap with a difference of 97 deaths while Arkansas has the smallest gap on the graph with a difference of 34 deaths.
Maternal Mortality Racial Gap Graph Description

This graph highlights the racial disparities in the US for maternal mortality in a comparison of Black and white women. The graph represents six states that had significant gaps between Black and white maternal mortalities per every 100,000 live births. New Jersey has a difference of 97 with white women making up 35 deaths while Black women make up 132 deaths per every 100,000 live births. Louisiana has the second widest of 64 with white women making up 48 deaths while Black women make up 112 deaths. Missouri follows at third with a difference of 59 as white women make up 33 deaths while Black women make up 92 deaths. Colorado has the fourth widest gap in the nation with a difference of 50 between 21 deaths for white women and 71 deaths and Black women. California sits at fifth with a difference of 47 deaths as white women make up 17 deaths while Black women make up 64 deaths. Lastly, Arkansas has a difference of 34 with white women making up 42 of the deaths while Black women make up 76 deaths.

"I've been given a unique opportunity as a Black woman legislator and as a victim of racial profiling to Co-Chair the Speakers Taskforce on Racial Disparities, to begin addressing the inequities that exist across the state of Wisconsin."
Shelia Stubbs, Representative for Wisconsin’s 77th Assembly District
a portrait of Shelia Stubbs
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National Geographic Features Our Research

We’re proud to be featured in National Geographic Magazine. Visit National Geographic’s website  to see their stunning visualizations of our data.

Americans care about gender equality

A survey commissioned for the report by YouGov and PerryUndem finds a solid majority of American’s support gender equality, including reproductive rights, equal pay, parental leave, and affordable child care.

4 in 5 adults believe that it is important for elected officials to work on issues affecting gender equality.

2 in 3 adults believe that the country would be better off with more women in political office.

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the cover of "The Best and Worst States to Be a Woman" report

The Time For Change is Now

Use our index to spotlight state-level achievements—and injustices. Let’s make every state a great state for women.

Media Kit for US WPS Index