If You’re a Woman, You May Want to Move to Minnesota

>>Young woman sitting in a waiting room holding a magazineThe news for North Carolina women has never been better — or worse.

Deaths from breast cancer are down; attacks on reproductive health are up. There is a serious female candidate for president but women still only make 77 cents to every dollar a man takes home. More women graduate from college but even more live in poverty.

In a remarkable effort to quantify how women are doing, researchers at the >>Institute for Women’s Policy Research crunched the data across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. They looked at seven broad categories of women’s lives, from employment to political participation. Each state was ranked and given a letter grade.

The verdict: overall, North Carolina ranks below average. We received a C- and rank 23rd for women-friendliness out of 50 states. Our best grade is for employment (C+) and our worst grades are for poverty, health, and work/family, all of which get D+.

Minnesota was judged the best state for women, while Alabama and Mississippi tied as the worst states. Here’s the good and bad news for women in North Carolina:

The good:

  • We’re in the top third of states for the percentage of women registered to vote.
  • Women in NC make 83 cents for every dollar men make; we’re in the top ten states on this measure.
  • Our child care services rank in the top 10.
  • Our infant mortality rate has improved  since the last IWPR report ten years ago.

The bad:

  • We are now in the bottom half of all states in reproductive health.
  • When it comes to abortion, most NC women live in counties without an abortion provider. Plus, fewer legislators support access to abortion.
  • Fewer women receive prenatal care during their first trimester of pregnancy than did 10 years ago.
  • More than 20% of nonelderly women in NC are uninsured, despite the promise of Obamacare.
  • 17 of every 100 women in NC live below the poverty line.

The rates of poverty and the uninsured have worsened over the last 10 years. Increasing rates of obesity and diabetes mean that women’s health overall is worse. In addition, there are huge racial and ethnic disparities on almost every indicator.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations:

  • Make it easier — not harder — for women and people of color to vote. Two-thirds of NC voters without voter IDs are women.
  • Raise the minimum wage, which would improve economic security, especially among women of color.
  • Expand Medicaid. It makes absolutely no sense for North Carolina to reject federal funds that are available to help provide insurance coverage for the 20% of women who are still uninsured.
  • Make sure that every woman has access to prenatal and infant care whether or not they have insurance and whether or not they are documented.

Changes that improve women’s economic security, health, political participation, and overall well being will make a difference in the lives of all North Carolinians.  We can do better!

>>FullSizeRender (1)Janet Colm is the founder and former CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina. She was arrested as part of the Moral Monday protests in July 2013 and lives in Chatham County, NC.

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