Report Shows Best and Worst States for the Status of Black Women in the United States

Press Release

June 22, 2017
Contact: Nicolas Martinez | 202-785-5100 |

New report presents state-by-state data on Black women’s health and well-being, political participation, and economic security

Washington, DC—A new report, released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) in collaboration with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), finds that the economic, social, health, and political status of Black women varies widely by U.S. state. The Status of Black Women in the United States, one of the most comprehensive reports on Black women in every state, builds on IWPR’s signature Status of Women in the States series to explore how Black women are faring across six different topic areas.

Nationally, Black women have the highest voter and labor force participation rates, yet are among the least represented in elected office and receive among the lowest earnings. Black women’s status varies widely by state and by topic area. For instance, rates of Black women living in poverty are substantially lower in Alaska (9.0 percent), Hawaii (10.0 percent), and Maryland (14.1 percent) than in Maine (66.0 percent), Oregon (35.8 percent) and Mississippi (34.7 percent).

“Each state has different demographics and different policies, that matter when assessing the status of Black women across the country,” said IWPR Senior Research Scientist Chandra Childers, Ph.D., co-author of the report. “This report provides data that states can use to understand the intensity of inequality affecting Black women in their states and identify solutions to address it.”

Other key findings by state include:

    • Voter ID laws: 12 out of 13 states in the South and the District of Columbia, where 52.6 percent of Black Americans reside, have voter identification laws, which have been found to disproportionately reduce Black voter turnout in multiple states.
    • Political representation: Between 1968 and 2016, only 16 states had sent a Black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. One in five women in Mississippi is Black, yet the state has no Black female members of Congress, the widest gap in the country between Black women’s share of the state population and their representation in U.S. Congress.
    • Earnings: Black women working full-time, year-round have the highest median annual earnings in the District of Columbia ($48,000), nearly double Black women’s earnings in Louisiana and Mississippi, at just $25,000.
    • Gender and racial wage gap: The smallest wage gap for Black women in the country is in Oregon, where Black women make just 72 cents for every dollar earned by a White man. The largest gap between Black women’s and White men’s earnings is in Louisiana, where Black women earn less than half of White men’s earnings (46.3 percent).
    • Occupational segregation: About 40 percent of employed Black women in Rhode Island work in service occupations, while more than 40 percent of Black women in the District of Columbia and Maryland work in managerial or professional occupations.
    • Breadwinner moms: More than half of Black married-couple households in Delaware, Maryland, and Missouri have women breadwinners (59.0, 56.4, and 55.4 percent, respectively).
    • Child care costs: Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama have the lowest cost of child care relative to Black women’s earnings in the county. (The average annual cost of full-time, center-based infant care is 19.3, 19.5, and 20.1 percent of median annual earnings for Black women working full-time, year-round, respectively.) Child care costs in the District of Columbia take up nearly half (47.1 percent) of Black women’s yearly earnings in D.C.
    • Health Insurance Coverage: Nearly all Black women in Hawaii (95 percent) have health insurance, compared with less than three in four in Louisiana (72.3 percent). Seven out of the 10 states where Black women compose the largest proportions of state populations have not adopted Medicaid expansion. Ten of the 14 states in the bottom third in the country for Black women’s health insurance coverage in 2014 were states where the Medicaid expansion had not been adopted.
    • Education: Black women in New Mexico are more than twice as likely as Black women in Wisconsin to have at least a bachelor’s degree (30.5 percent, compared with 14.2 percent, respectively).
    • Business Ownership: More than two in five women-owned businesses in the District of Columbia (45.9 percent), Mississippi (43.8 percent) and Georgia (40.8 percent) are owned by Black women.
    • Mental health: Black women in Wisconsin and Nevada have nearly twice as many days per month of poor mental health than Black women in Alaska (6.1 days each, compared with 3.4 days per month, respectively).
    • Breast cancer mortality: The mortality rate from breast cancer among Black women, at 30.2 per 100,000 is nearly triple the rate among Asian/Pacific Islander women, (11.3 per 100,000 women), and is also higher than the rate among White and Hispanic women. Black women are least likely to die from breast cancer in Minnesota (21.2 deaths per 100,000 women) and most likely to die in Louisiana and Oklahoma at 34.7 deaths from breast cancer per 100,000 women.
    • Intimate partner violence: Black women experience physical intimate partner violence at higher rates than women overall (41.2 percent of Black women, compared with 31.5 percent of all women).
    • Incarceration: Black women of all ages were twice as likely to be imprisoned as White women (109 per 100,000 Black women were imprisoned in state and federal prisons compared with 53 per 100,000 White women in 2014). Among young women, the disparity is especially pronounced: Black women aged 18-19 are four times as likely to be imprisoned as White women of the same age (32 per 100,000 compared with 8 per 100,000).

The comprehensive report, executive summary, and complete set of policy recommendations across the six topic areas, are available on and

Findings from the report were discussed by eight Black women leaders during a groundbreaking panel on June 7, 2017, at the policy research forum, “From Persistence to Power: Facts, Truth & Equity for Women,” moderated by Alicia Garza, Special Projects Director at NDWA and co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Recording of the panel is available at

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States, most of whom are women. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for the respect, recognition, and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers. It’s won legislation protecting domestic workers’ rights in seven states including New York, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Connecticut, and Illinois. The Alliance is powered by over 60 affiliate organizations — plus local chapters in Atlanta, Durham, Seattle and New York City — of over 20,000 nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers for the elderly and people with disabilities in 37 cities and 18 states.

We Dream in Black (WeDIB) is a program of the National Domestic Workers Alliance that is designed to build the organizing and movement building capacity of Black diasporic domestic workers. WeDIB organizes U.S. born and Black immigrant domestic workers, building the capacity to shape a new economy and a new democracy for all of us.