For this edition of Worst State of the Week, we honor the mothers of America by looking at some cold, hard statistics in order to answer the question: What member of the Union makes it harder on women just to do the daily work of parenting? We looked across several categories to spread the love among numerous worthy states.
Unintended pregnancy is riskier than planned pregnancy both in terms of the mother and child’s health, and in terms of the mother’s ability to still achieve her education and employment goals. Rates of unintended pregnancy vary widely by state, but while usual suspects such as Mississippi and Texas are way up there, Delaware, of all places, is the actual winner. As Olga Khazan at the Atlantic explains, the First State “has an unusual confluence of factors that add up to a surprising rate of mistimed conceptions,” such as bad access to transportation and poor sex education. Since most teen pregnancy is unplanned, it’s worth a look at the teen birth rate, which is highest in Arkansas, with a rate of 43.5 births per thousand teenage girls.
One of the biggest challenges facing mothers is lack of health insurance, which can make it hard not only to get prenatal care but to stay healthy for your children. While Obamacare is steadily improving this problem, many gaps remain. Kaiser has a breakdown of uninsurance rates by gender, and Texas is the clear winner, with 27 percent of women ages 19-64 going without health insurance.
Though everyone likes to talk about work-life balance, there’s surprisingly scant comparative data on how the states are doing on family-friendly policies such as sick leave, paternity leave, and safe places at work for mothers to express breast milk. In 2012, the National Partnership for Women and Families put together a state-by-state report card, but because so many states offer little to nothing in terms of parental protections, it’s impossible to pick a clear-cut winner for the worst. So let’s simply give a shout-out to each state that received an F on this metric: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. (California and Connecticut were the only two states to receive A grades.)