The Fifteen Worst States for Women to Live In – By the Numbers 

Life for women and their families can be dramatically different from state to state.  Such factors as better wages, access to childcare, accessible health care, affordable housing, reproductive health care, women’s shelters, and so many other aspects of what makes a supportive living environment are unevenly found throughout the 50 states. Much depends upon a state’s political leadership and the policies and laws that have been adopted – or not.  States that have a history of conservative political leadership often fail to enact initiatives that would improve the lives of their constituents and sometimes even pass laws to prohibit adoption of progressive laws and policies.    

Differences between the states have come into stark contrast since the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The conservative majority on the court said that access to abortion was up to the individual states.  There are now 14 states that ban abortion care and six other states which have severe restrictions. Other realities in many of those same states spell a shortened life span, increased domestic violence rates, higher maternal/infant mortality rates and lower wages for women, among other important factors.  It is no surprise that most of these states have the highest rates of poverty.  

Based on those telling factors, we have compiled a list of Worst States for women to live in and work in.  We looked at Important indicators such as poverty rate, life expectancy, size of the wage gap, access to reproductive and maternal healthcare, homicide rates, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), access to paid leave and healthcare, state health system performance, and access to Medicaid. Each factor was quantified and given a score, with a possible 90 points for each state.  States are listed in descending order to end with Alabama and Mississippi as the Worst States.  Sources for this information are listed at the end of this article. 

Is your state on this list?  

15) North Dakota – 44/90 

Coming in fifteenth place is North Dakota. This state has a ban on abortion with exceptions for rape or incest only in the first six weeks of pregnancy. They also have a preemption for paid family leave. This means that the state has failed to create state-wide family leave programs and also passed legislation that prevents local governments from creating programs for paid family leave. North Dakota is also one of the worst states in the state-by-state rankings from When Men Murder Women, a report from the Violence Policy Center detailing homicide rates against women. These all combined for North Dakota to slide into number fifteen. 

14) Florida – 43.5/90 

Just barely ahead of North Dakota, Florida also has a preemption for paid family leave. There is currently a 15-week abortion ban in place because the 6-week abortion ban is awaiting a court decision. Florida has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, so some Floridians fall into the income level that would make them eligible but cannot access it because Florida has not adopted the program.  

13) Wisconsin – 42/90 

Wisconsin’s relatively low maternal mortality rate helped save it from a much lower place on this list. At the time data for this list was compiled, abortion was unavailable because of legal uncertainty. Planned Parenthood has since started offering abortions again in light of a recent court decision. Wisconsin also has a preemption for paid family leave, a relatively high homicide rate, and has not expanded Medicaid.  

12) Missouri – 38/90 

Missouri has banned abortion with no exceptions. They are also tied with North Dakota in the rankings of When Men Murder Women. The rate of Intimate Partner Violence is significantly higher than the national average, and they have a preemption for paid family leave. Missouri is not one of the states that has failed to expand Medicaid, and the quality of life for working women is the highest out of all the states on this list. Still, the lack of access to comprehensive healthcare shown by the abortion ban and poor state healthcare system ranking has landed Missouri at number 12. 

11) Indiana – 35/90 

Mike Pence’s home state swings into 11th place on this list. Indiana has a near total ban on abortion, preemption for paid family leave, and high rates of domestic violence. This state is a perfect example of strict laws combining with less-than ideal living conditions to make life worse for women. Their best factor was their ranking in quality of life for working women: 30th place. 

10) West Virginia – 32/90 

In West Virginia, life expectancy for women is below the national average, the wage gap is wider than the national average, and they’re one of the worst states in the country for working women. Abortion is banned with exceptions for rape or incest. Their state healthcare system performs poorly, despite West Virginia expanding Medicaid. 

9) Georgia – 29/90 

Georgia underperformed almost across the board. The wage gap is about half a cent worse than the national average, and they are one of the worst states for working women. Also, their state healthcare system performance was ranked very poorly compared to other states in the country. This could be partially due to the fact that Georgia has failed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. They also have a preemption for paid family leave. 

8) Oklahoma – 28.5/90 

Oklahoma was ranked second in When Men Murder Women, meaning that only one other state has higher rates of homicide against women. They also have a poorly functioning healthcare system, an abortion ban, low life expectancy, and a preemption for family leave. Oklahoma’s best factor was their quality of life for working women, but it was more than outweighed by the other factors. 

7) Texas – 28/90 

Houston, we have a problem. Texas has a strict abortion ban. They also are one of the worst states for working women and have one of the worst performing healthcare systems. Texas has not expanded Medicaid, and they have a preemption for paid family leave. They just barely edged out Oklahoma to be number seven. 

6) Arkansas – 25/90 

The only positives for Arkansas were that the wage gap is only half a cent lower than the national average and they have expanded Medicaid. All the other factors, such as the murder rates and lack of abortion access, were abysmal. The maternal mortality rate is high, and the life expectancy is low. 

5) Louisiana – 24/90 

Louisiana’s best factor was their rates of IPV which were still higher than the national average but lower than other states on this list. Abortion is banned with no exceptions, the overall life expectancy is lower than the national average, and the wage gap is significantly lower than the national average. They are also ranked fifth in the state-by-state rankings of When Men Murder Women. 

4) Tennessee – 23/90 

Tennessee is one of the 10 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. They also have a strict abortion ban, a preemption for family leave, and a poorly performing healthcare system. Their best factor was the wage gap, which is still three cents lower than the national average. 

3) Kentucky – 22.5/90 

Kentucky has an abortion ban with no exceptions, a low life expectancy for women, a high homicide ranking, a high maternal mortality rate, a preemption for family leave, and a poorly performing healthcare system. The only factor that could make it worse is if they had not expanded Medicaid. 

2) South Carolina – 22/90 

South Carolina has not expanded Medicaid, leaving some of its citizens without access to affordable healthcare. They also have a 6-week abortion ban, a low quality of life for working women, high homicide ranking, and a preemption for family leave.  

1) Alabama and Mississippi – 17/90 

Tied for the very worst states to live in as a woman with a measly 17 out of 90 possible points are Alabama and Mississippi. These states both have significant abortion restrictions, a poor quality of life for working women, a low life expectancy, poorly performing healthcare systems, and high maternal mortality rates. Neither state has expanded Medicaid. Each of these states make life more difficult and less safe for women to live and work in a comprehensive variety of ways, making them the worst states for women to live in. 


Not surprisingly, most of the states with the highest poverty rates are included among our Worst States. These are:  Mississippi at 19.7 percent of their state’s population, followed by Louisiana at 17.8 percent, New Mexico at 16.8 percent, West Virginia at 15.8 percent, Arkansas at 15.2 percent, District of Columbia at 15 percent, Alabama and Kentucky at 14.9 percent.  


Much like poverty rates, states with the highest rates of gun violence, based on the number of gun deaths per capita in 2021, beginning with the highest: Mississippi – 33.9, Louisiana – 29.1, New Mexico – 27.8, Alabama – 26.4, Wyoming – 26.1, Alaska – 25.2, Montana – 25.1, Arkansas – 23.3, Missouri- 23.2 and Tennessee – 22.8. 

By Erin Reichert, NOW Public Policy Intern 


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