Cities across America are as diverse as the people that inhabit them. That is one of many reasons that makes the United States a fascinating case study. As a woman, can I find the same opportunities in every city? I don’t think so and there’s a new study that ranks the top 25 metro areas for women.
According to Measure of America of the Social Science Research Council’s Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps: “The study finds that women living in most major metro areas are doing better than the typical American woman. However, not all urban and suburban women have the same choices and opportunities: the study shows how basic indicators in health, education, and income intersect with other important factors, among them race, ethnicity, age, the opportunities of the marketplace, and marital status, to form a more complete picture of the critical factors shaping women’s well-being and access to opportunity.”
The Women’s Well-Being: Ranking America’s Top 25 Metro Areas study looked at three main indicators. The first includes a long/healthy existence and life expectancy at birth. The second area is a women’s access to knowledge including educational degree attainment and school enrollment. The third factor is a decent standard of living and the median earnings for women. All three areas are essential to the positive well being for both men and women.
The top five cities for women in order are Washington, D.C, San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and New York. The bottom five cities for women include Pittsburg, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Houston, San Antonio, and Riverside-San Bernardino.
As a result, large gaps exist for women in these cities. For example the average life expectancy for a woman in San Francisco is 84.5 years while in Detroit it’s 80.3 years. This includes all race and ethnic groups. The gap in education is astounding. At least 45.5% of women in Washington, DC have at least a Bachelor’s Degree while in Riverside-San Bernardino the percentage drops to 19.5%. Earnings drops to a shocking difference with a yearly median personal earnings of $38,000 in Washington, DC compared to only $22,000 in Riverside-San Bernardino.
According to the study: “The majority of American households depend upon a woman’s earnings to make ends meet. How women fare in the labor market is thus critically important to America’s girls, boys, and men as well as its women. Research shows that education is the surest route to higher earnings as well as greater economic security. During the recession (between 2007 and 2010), the unemployment rate of women without a high school diploma climbed seven percentage points, from 8 percent to 15 percent; for those with at least a bachelor’s degree, it rose only from 2 percent to 5 percent. Despite women’s greater levels of educational attainment, however, men still out earn women by a large margin.”
What is the next step?
Personally, I’ve found that location does matter for success. Not every community is open or set-up for the success and well being of women. Luckily, I moved to a location with my husband for graduate school that fosters creativity and offers positive opportunities. Meanwhile, my home state of Wisconsin lost 6,200 private-sector jobs in April according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The climate and culture in the state has stunted growth.
When women are giving educational opportunities and a decent standard of living, the result is a longer and healthier life. Empowering women not just in the United States but also globally, will only improve the human condition.