The Best And Worst States For Working Mothers

Here's how life for working mothers varies around the country

Updated 05/13/18


Being a working mother isn’t easy, but new research shows that it’s much harder for women in some areas of the country than others. WalletHub, the personal finance website, looked at a huge amount of data across all 50 states and DC, to determine the best and worst states to be a working mother—and the truth is, it’s never easy. One of the things that was the most striking about the data was just how much things vary from state-to-state. “We were surprised to find that South Dakota has the highest ratio of female executives to male executives, while Utah has the lowest,” Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub Analyst, tells Brides. “It was also interesting to see that Minnesota has the highest median annual salary for women at $44,281 (adjusted for cost of living). That's 2 times higher than in Hawaii, the state that has the lowest median annual salary for women at $19,828."

It’s really worth checking out the whole study to see just how much things vary, even within a state. States that scored really high in one category often were middling or even quite low in another area. For example, my home state of New Hampshire came in at 6th place for childcare — which seems great — but it came in at number 42 for professional opportunities and had one of the biggest gender pay gaps in the country. It just shows how patchy support services and opportunities for women really are. Every state has its unique challenges.

The Rankings

Top 10 States For Working Moms

  1. Vermont
  2. Minnesota
  3. Massachusetts
  4. District of Columbia
  5. Connecticut
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Maine
  8. New Jersey


New York

Bottom 10 States For Working Moms




West Virginia


South Carolina





A Huge Range Of Inequality

You can check out how your state fared by checking out the list. But one important thing to take away from this research is just how large some of the disparities are between states. In Mississippi, childcare costs are nearly 10 percent of the median salary for women, which might already seem shockingly high — but in the District of Columbia, it’s over 26 percent. That means over a quarter of many women’s wages are going on childcare, which is mind-boggling. New York scored five times higher than Idaho in regards to childcare. South Dakota has a three times higher proportion of female executives than Utah does. We’re not talking about little difference — living in a different state can be totally transformative.

But perhaps this disparity is most keenly felt when we look at the resources available to children. In Maryland, 26.3 percent of single-mom families with children are living in poverty. That number is already gut-wrenching—the idea that over 1 in 4 children with single moms are living in poverty. But in Mississippi, that number skyrockets to 50.8 percent — over half of single mother families. Not only is it terrifying to imagine that over half of children born to single mothers are living in poverty, it’s even more difficult to stomach the idea that if you’re born in Mississippi to a single mother you’re almost twice as likely to be born into poverty than if you were born in Maryland. It’s a perverse, unfair lottery.

How To Improve

So how can we improve things? It’s clear that, across the country, we need to improve the standards and conditions of working mothers. There were 15 key metrics taken into account when deciding the rankings, but the states that really delivered for working mothers had something in common. "High-ranking states offer great child care, even though that usually comes with a hefty price tag,” Gonzalez explains. “They also provide great professional opportunities for women, with low unemployment rates and more females in executive positions." So childcare — but affordable childcare — seems to be key, as do professional opportunities. That doesn't seem like it should be an insurmountable task. And yet so many women still lack these basic elements that make their lives not only easier, but more fulfilling. That’s without even factoring in how much it could improve the lives of their children. Because better career opportunities and more services for working mothers ultimately lead to fewer children in poverty — how is that not a priority?

Being a working mom is always going to be a challenge — but it’s a challenge that so many women are willing to take on it. Yet the United States lags behind the rest of the world in areas like maternity leave, childcare, and a work-life balance for mothers with young children. It’s not only women who pay the price, it’s their children too. Introducing basic productions and services could completely change the lives of working mothers, especially single mothers. And I can’t think of any group that deserves it more.

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