Today, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a study on the status of women in the United States, a state-by-state analysis of women’s political and economic status and statewide policies affecting women. “The Status of Women in the States: Politics, Economic, Health, Demographics” reveals that the size of a woman’s paycheck, her access to health care and reproductive health services, and her access to political power are deeply interconnected and vary appreciably based on where she lives. IWPR ranks Connecticut and Vermont (tied in first place); Washington; Hawaii; Colorado, Minnesota, and New Hampshire (tied in fourth place); and Alaska as the top states for women. Mississippi (51st), Alabama and Tennesse (tied in 50th); Arkansas, Kentucky, and South Carolina (tied); Oklahoma; Florida; and Pennsylvania as the worst for women. “The reports are premised on the reality that women are of critical importance in our nation’s life, both economically and politically, that women are inherently equal to men, and that they deserve equal rights and their fair share of all the resources that society has to offer,” IWPR President Heidi Hartman said today in a press conference detailing the report’s findings.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal said the reports are “nuggets of information that every women’s organization and activist in the country should read, because they can help to provide the road map for strategies to gain equality for women.” “In no state have we achieved equality,” Smeal said at the IWPR’s press conference this morning. “This report shows great deficits for women, but it also shows how constructive federal legislation and more concerted advocacy at the state level can better the conditions for women nationwide.”
“Women’s poverty rates are 50 percent higher than men’s, and the hardest hit women are single moms,” said Heidi Hartman, IWPR’s President. Smeal linked the report’s findings to the gender gap, arguing that the report’s findings and the recent election results are interrelated. She noted that 63 percent of single women voted for Gore, giving him a 15-point gender gap. Amy Caiassa, Study Director for IWPR, called women to action, saying women must “demand that their policymakers do, in fact, address their needs with appropriate policies” and “claim more and more places in higher office.” In many of the states where women fared well, the state legislature was more gender-balanced.
The report’s findings include a detailed analysis of the wage gap. Nationwide, women make 74 cents on a man’s dollar. In Washington DC, women make 86 cents, the highest in the nation, largely due to government-based jobs that include equal pay requirements. The biggest wage gap is in Wyoming, where women make only 63 cents. Grave differences were also found in health care and access to reproductive health services. Only 18 states require comprehensive sex education. 49 percent of insurers do not cover contraception, keeping women’s out-of-pocket medical expenses higher than men’s. However, the feminist movement’s success is seen in the fact that in the last three years, 11 states have passed laws requiring insurers to cover contraceptives.