From iVillage (full post and rankings):
For the past nine days, iVillage has been counting down our list of Best to Worst States for Women. When we first envisioned this project four months ago, we hoped to gain some insight into what it’s like to be a woman in each of our 50 states. We could not have predicted how relevant the answers to these questions would be during a particularly eventful presidential election year.
While reproductive rights, birth control and health care access dominate the headlines, our investigation has brought these issues home to where women live. In creating our rankings, we analyzed health care and reproductive rights as well as economic success, access to affordable childcare, female representation in government and educational attainment. We wondered: Which states are getting things right and really helping women? And which states still have a learning curve on these issues?
It’s nothing personal Mississippi. We’re sure you’re a lovely place to visit. But we would not want to live there. At least, not right now. But we have some ideas on how you can do a better job empowering women. Read on.
Mississippi has the country’s lowest childcare costs ($4,650 per year for an infant) which is good considering its high fertility rate of 15 births per 1,000 people. Mississippi’s childcare assistance policy is relatively generous considering women’s median earnings (see the “bad news” below), covering families of three that earn up to $35,000 per year, but with nearly 10,000 children on a waiting list, women will need to make sure they register early.
Mississippi came in dead-last in four of our ranking categories. It has the highest rate of female poverty (22 percent), the lowest median earnings ($28,879), and the highest percentage of overweight and obese women (68 percent). Mississippi women exercise the least (36 percent don’t work out at all). Women here eat fewer fruits and vegetables than women in every state except Oklahoma. And Mississippi ranks in the bottom 10 on college graduation rate (21 percent), health insurance coverage (24 percent uninsured), mammogram rates (32 percent unscreened) and political representation.
In fact, Mississippi is one of just four states that have never sent a woman to Congress. Not a one. Ever. It has also never had a female governor and its state legislature is just 15 percent female -- 26 out of 174 seats. And in the state’s 195-year history, voters have only sent a woman to office four times -- and three of those times it was the same person: Evelyn Gandy, who filled three different executive seats during the 1960s and 1970s.
Mississippi’s reproductive rights record is equally abysmal. Considering 99 percent of counties have no abortion provider and Mississippi accounted for 0.2 percent of abortions in the U.S. in 2008, the state has a de facto ban on the procedure due to lack of access. In 2011, state lawmakers tried but failed to pass a Personhood Amendment that would identify life as beginning at conception, a move that would have further eroded women’s reproductive choices. But in this legislative session, lawmakers have advanced bills that would ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected (around six weeks) and require doctors to be present when a woman takes medication to induce an abortion. The law is meant to stop doctors from prescribing via telephone, a move that allows physicians to serve women who cannot travel to one of the state’s only two abortion providers.
Mississippi’s most famous citizen is Oprah Winfrey, who was born in Kosciusko and ranks 139th among Forbes’ list of the country’s wealthiest Americans. (We think we can guess what she thinks of her home state’s dubious distinction.)