Let’s play a quick game of Guess Who. You’re on a plane, sandwiched between two young women: one from Washington, D.C., the other from Nevada. Who do you think is more likely to be the bigger drinker? Nope—not the one who lives near Las Vegas; the answer is Miss D.C., since young women there binge-drink more than in any other area of the country. Wondering how else the 50 states and D.C. differ on key female issues? The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has answers. For the last 28 years, the IWPR has been compiling facts like these, building the ultimate database on women in every state in America (plus D.C.). This spring IWPR is releasing its latest report—and in this groundbreaking Glamour exclusive, its experts have analyzed state-by-state numbers specifically on younger women. Yes, “as a young woman, your choices matter,” says Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., president of IWPR. “But our data show that where you live also matters a great deal: Your state can affect how much it costs to go to college, how much you will earn, how much child care will cost you, your overall health, and much, much more.” Whether you’re considering a move to a new state or are curious about how you, a woman in, say, Idaho or Missouri, can get a salary more like a woman in Maryland’s, read on. Insight ahead!
WHAT’S AVERAGE: $31,000 annually (for full-time work)
WHERE EARNINGS ARE HIGHEST: D.C. ($53,900); Massachusetts ($40,000); Maryland ($38,600)
WHERE EARNINGS ARE LOWEST: Idaho ($24,900); Mississippi ($25,400); Arkansas ($25,000); New Mexico, Nebraska ($26,000)
One reason women under 35 in places like D.C., Maryland, and Massachusetts make twice what their peers do in Idaho, Mississippi, and Arkansas? Education, education, education. D.C. is the best-educated part of the country. “In Massachusetts there’s a centuries-long history of commitment to public education, which can explain why the state developed a white-collar economy,” says Hartmann. The industries in your state matter too: “Maryland, for example, has been working for a while to get more women into STEM fields,” says Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at IWPR.
The Pay Gap
WHAT’S AVERAGE: Young women working full-time make 89 cents to their male counterparts’ dollar.
WHERE THE PAY GAP IS NARROWEST: New York ($1.02 to men’s $1); Vermont, D.C., California (98¢); North Carolina (97¢)
WHERE THE PAY GAP IS WIDEST: Wyoming (72¢); Louisiana (78¢); Utah (79¢); Idaho, Nebraska (82¢)
Now this is cool: Young women in the Empire State have not only closed the pay gap—they’re now outearning young men. “New York has a large city that’s a magnet for highly educated women,” explains Hartmann. (To be fair, the recession has also walloped male-dominated professions like finance and construction.) What’s more, women in New York don’t start families until age 27 or 28, but the average woman in Wyoming has her first baby at 23—significant since, says Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University, the pay gap generally grows as women get older because of “children, end of story.” No one can tell you the right time to have a baby; just know that earning your full potential early on can keep your pay higher for life. “If you slow down in those periods,” says Hegewisch, “you can fall behind.” Plan accordingly, and follow your heart.
WHAT’S AVERAGE: 42 hours per week (for full-time work)
WHERE THE WORKWEEK IS LONGEST: D.C. (45 hours); Wyoming (44); Alaska, New York, Hawaii (43)
WHERE THE WORKWEEK IS SHORTEST: West Virginia, Alabama, Utah, Nevada, Arkansas (41)
The 42-hour workweek is the new norm. Why do locales like New York top even that? It’s largely because their residents are educated. “People with more education are working longer hours than those with less education,” says Jerry Jacobs, sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. What’s menacing about this longer workweek: “Growth of household income over the past 35 years has come from workers spending more time on the job, not from them getting paid more,” says David Cooper, senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. No matter where you live, fight for your value.
WHAT’S AVERAGE: 12% of young women were unemployed at some point in 2013.
WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT IS LOWEST: North Dakota (2%); Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota (6%)
WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT IS HIGHEST: Alabama, Mississippi (16%); New Mexico, Georgia (15%)
“The job growth in the top states is driven by the oil and gas boom,” says Cooper. Those industries are typically male, says Hegewisch, but they create jobs in other industries: “You might have some women engineers or surveyors, but the boom will also generate jobs in shops, restaurants, hotels, and maybe even a couple more doctors’ jobs.” Alabama, Mississippi, and New Mexico all cut tax-payer funded jobs (like teachers) during the recession; since those are female-dominated fields, women took the hit.
WHAT’S AVERAGE: Just 15% of young women eat at least five servings of fruits and veggies a day.
WHERE DIETS ARE HEALTHIEST: Oregon, New Hampshire (20% get five servings a day); Vermont, Maine (19%)
WHERE DIETS ARE LEAST HEALTHY: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Mississippi (9%)
Wake-up call: None of us is doing a great job of getting our greens. Even in best-in-class Oregon, only 20 percent of young women are eating five servings of garden goods each day. What distinguishes Oregon from states where young women are eating even less ? Availability. “Oregon and Vermont are states with more access to things like farmers’ markets,” says Kelly Pritchett, a nutrition and exercise science professor at Central Washington University. Policy and culture can sway you too: “If your city has a farmers’ market every Thursday and they hire bands, the city has made an effort to make it a social event,” says Buettner. “Whereas if you live in a place where junk food stores are big and powerful, people are going to eat that stuff.”
WHAT’S AVERAGE: 49% of young women exercise 150 minutes per week (roughly five 30-minute workouts).
WHERE THE MOST WOMEN EXERCISE: Oregon (68%); Alaska, Montana (63%)
WHERE THE FEWEST WOMEN EXERCISE: Tennessee (36%); Mississippi, Texas (39%)
Girl, look at that body—in Oregon they work out! The majority of the state’s young women exercise the doctor-recommended 150 minutes per week. It’s not all at the gym: They get their sweat on in smaller ways every day, a function of how their state was built. “In Portland, for example, it’s easier to walk or ride your bike downtown than it is to drive,” says Buettner. A place like Tennessee just isn’t set up that way. “Some towns, like Chattanooga, are pretty active, but overall you don’t see bike paths,” says Pritchett.
WHAT’S AVERAGE: 20% of young women have had four or more drinks on one occasion in the past month.
WHERE BINGE-DRINKING IS LEAST COMMON: Utah, West Virginia (11% have binged in the past month); Tennessee (12%)
WHERE BINGE-DRINKING IS MOST COMMON: D.C. (32%); Wisconsin, North Dakota (30%)
It’s an adult version of peer pressure: In D.C., where politics and business place a premium on wining and dining, young women are most likely to binge-drink. In central states, like North Dakota and Wisconsin (home to “Brew City” Milwaukee), experts blame high drinking rates on the history of alcohol. “There’s a view that heavy drinking is normal,” says Sharon Wilsnack, a substance abuse researcher at the University of North Dakota. “People say: ‘I did this when I was young, and I don’t care if my kids do it.'” Alcohol attitudes do a 180 in Utah with its largely Mormon population and in Bible Belt states like Tennessee.
Your Sexual Health
WHAT’S AVERAGE: 623 of every 100,000 women get chlamydia, the most commonly reported STD
WHERE CHLAMYDIA INCIDENCES ARE LOWEST: New Hampshire (327 of every 100,000 get it); Maine (354); Utah (356)
WHERE CHLAMYDIA INCIDENCES ARE HIGHEST: D.C. (1,200); Alaska (1,100); Mississippi (826)
Shocking trend: The incidence rate of chlamydia increased 54 percent between 2000 and 2012. The silver lining? The rise could be because of better testing. Women in D.C. and Alaska, for instance, have the highest chlamydia rates, but those states also do more gynecological screenings in general. “If you look for something, you might find it,” says Katharine O’Connell White, M.D., assistant ob-gyn professor at Tufts University. In this case, since chlamydia can lead to infertility, “what you don’t know can hurt you,” she says. So if you’re sexually active and your doctor hasn’t suggested a test, ask for one—no matter where you live.
Your Mental Health
WHAT’S AVERAGE: 20% of young women have been diagnosed with depression.
WHERE DEPRESSION RATES ARE LOWEST: California, Hawaii (only 13% have been depressed); New Jersey (14%)
WHERE DEPRESSION RATES ARE HIGHEST: Vermont, Maine (33%); New Hampshire, Oregon (30%)
States with the highest rates of depression are, you guessed it, cold or rainy, while those with low rates are generally sunnier. “People tend to be happier in the sunshine states,” says Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. “More sun is good for circadian rhythms.” A support system helps too: In New Jersey “you have a high population density, which means more opportunity for social interaction,” she says. But our experts suspect that in some states, like Georgia (fifth least depressed at 17 percent), depression is underdiagnosed. “There is a culture of honor there,” says Emiliana Simon-Thomas, of University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. “So people may be less likely to say, ‘I’m not doing well.'”
WHAT’S AVERAGE: Young women report their mental health is “not good” five days per month.
WHERE ANXIETY IS LOWEST: New Jersey, Hawaii, North Dakota, Virginia (women report feeling this way less than four days a month)
WHERE ANXIETY IS HIGHEST: Arkansas (seven days); Maine, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Alabama (six days)
Young women spend nearly two months ( months! ) each year feeling sad, stressed, afraid, or down. Traces of the recession may be to blame: “For many women a secure financial future feels more tenuous than ever,” says Dr. Meltzer-Brody. Well-paid Jersey girls are most optimistic.
“Not every state checks every box,” says Hartmann, “but you can find a state that checks the important boxes for you .”