WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report released Wednesday by the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that despite advances in some areas, West Virginia remains one of the worst economies in the nation for women.
The report by the Washington, D.C. think tank that tracks women's economic well being found that West Virginia ranks 49th in the nation in terms of monetary compensation for women and other factors in relation to their male counterparts.
Overall, the Institute ranked the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Massachusetts, as the first, second, and third, followed by Minnesota (4th), Vermont (5th), Connecticut and New Jersey (6th), and Colorado (8th), for doing well on most of the indicators detailed in the report, titled "The best and worst state economies for women."
The states with the worst economies for women, according to the report, are Arkansas (51st), Louisiana (50th), and West Virginia (49th), at the three bottom places, followed by Mississippi (48th), Kentucky (47th), Montana (46th) and Tennessee (45th).
"It's no surprise that the best state economies for women are largely in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Women have long fared better economically in these regions," said the Institute's Amy Caiazza. "Likewise, the Southern states are often, as expected, home to economies that work much less well for women, where earnings are typically low, poverty is high, and opportunity is limited."
Nationwide, women who work full-time, year-round have median annual earnings of $31,800 -- 77 percent of men's annual earnings of $41,300. The District of Columbia has the highest rate of women's earnings at $42,400. The median annual earnings of women in West Virginia was $27,600 according to the report.
Besides earnings, the report looked at other factors such as the percent of women who participate in the work force. In this category, West Virginia ranked the worst in the nation with a labor force participation rate of only 49.1 percent. The national average for women's participation in the labor force was 59.2 percent. South Dakota had the largest participation rate of women in the labor force at 69.4 percent.
Another area in which West Virginia also performed poorly was in the levels of educational attainment of women. Only 15.2 percent of the state's women hold a bachelor's degree or higher – the lowest percentage in the nation. By contrast, the District of Columbia has the highest level of educational attainment by women with 45.3 percent of women there holding at least a bachelor's degree. Nationwide, 26.5 percent of women hold at least a bachelor's degree, according to the report.
Another factor detailed in the report is the percent of women in the work force who hold managerial or professional occupations. In this category, West Virginia ranked 39th in the nation with 31 percent of women in the work force holding such occupations. The national average was 35.5 percent, while the District of Columbia was the leader in this category with over 52 percent of women in the work force there holding managerial or professional positions.
One relative bright spot for West Virginia in the report came in the number of women who own businesses here. According to the report, 27.7 percent of businesses in West Virginia are owned by women – the 20th highest percentage in the country. Nationwide, 28.2 percent of businesses are owned by women.
The report was written by a team of researchers at the Institute for Women's Policy Research and was based on analysis of federal government data. The Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, has analyzed state-by-state differences in women's well-being since 1996.
A complete copy of the 29-page report can be found online at the Institute for Women's Policy Research's Web site at www.iwpr.org.