The Best and Worst States to Be a Working Mother

A working mother is a hard job.
Image Credit: MoMo Productions/DigitalVision/GettyImages

As of 2019, CNBC reported that there were approximately 35 million working mothers in the U.S. Though their numbers have grown, many moms still face the kinds of challenges their mothers faced when women joined the workforce in great numbers during the 1970s and 1980s. From salaries to child care costs, there are a number of factors that make some states better than others for working moms.

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The Cost of Childcare

Parents magazine reported that a majority of families using child care spend at least 10 percent of their household income on those services. Citing a study from the Center of American Progress, Parents magazine also reported that 41 percent of families surveyed said that child care costs and availability had negative impacts on their careers, forcing them to make tough choices such as cutting their hours or passing up opportunities. Not surprisingly, it's working mothers who are affected the most.

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As pointed out by World Population Review, the annual cost of child care can exceed the cost of one year's tuition at a public university. Here are the 10 states with the highest child care costs, with average expenditures shown in parentheses:

  1. Massachusetts (​$20,913​)
  2. California (​$16,945​)
  3. Minnesota (​$16,087​)
  4. Connecticut (​$15,591​)
  5. New York (​$14,394​)
  6. Maryland (​$15,335​)
  7. Colorado (​$15,394​)
  8. Washington (​$14,554​)
  9. Virginia ​($14,063​)
  10. Illinois (​$13,802​)

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The lowest child care costs were reported in the following states:

  1. Mississippi (​$5,436​)
  2. Alabama (​$6,001​)
  3. Kentucky (​$6,411​)
  4. South Dakota (​$6,511​)
  5. Arkansas (​$6,890​)
  6. South Carolina (​$7,007​)
  7. Idaho (​$7,474​)
  8. Louisiana (​$7,724​)
  9. Georgia (​$8,520​)
  10. Oklahoma (​$8,576​)

Cost of Living

Child care costs can be one indicator of the cost of living, You can't compare the cost of child care in Massachusetts versus Mississippi without looking at average earnings and the overall cost of living. For example, in a report on 2021 median household incomes, World Population Review reported that Massachusetts ranked third in the nation, with a median household income of ​$85,843​. Median income means that half the people in the state earned more, while half earned less. By contrast, the median household income in Mississippi ranked lowest in the nation, at ​$45,081​.

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However, earnings in dollar amounts don't tell the whole story. You can use a cost of living calculator, such as the one offered free by NerdWallet, to see how far your money can go. For example, if you earned the median household income of ​$85,843​ in Boston, MA, you'd only need to earn ​$48,383​ in Hattiesburg, MS, where the cost of living is 44 percent lower.

The Gender Pay Gap

According to a 2021 article in U.S. News and World Report, women were paid about 84 percent of what men were paid in 2020. The wage gap has held steady for the past 15 years, meaning that, on average, women have to work an extra 42 days a year for their annual income to equal men's. Fortunately, some states have made progress toward narrowing the gender pay gap.

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Here are the 10 best states for pay equality. The percentage of men's pay that women earn is shown in parentheses:

  1. Vermont (91.0 percent)
  2. Hawaii (89.41 percent)
  3. Maryland (89.37 percent)
  4. California (88.1 percent)
  5. Nevada (87.3 percent)
  6. New York (85.6 percent)
  7. North Carolina (85.5 percent)
  8. Rhode Island (84.8 percent)
  9. Alaska (84.5 percent)
  10. Connecticut (83.7 percent)

Professional Opportunities and Work/Life Balance

CNBC recently reported on a study by WalletHub that took three factors into consideration when evaluating the best and worst states for working moms: professional opportunities, work/life balance and child care affordability. Using data from government sources, WalletHub also included in their metrics the gender pay gap, median women's income, states' parental leave policies and the percentage of women working in executive roles.

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Considering all these factors, WalletHub concluded that the 10 best states for working moms are:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. District of Columbia
  3. Connecticut
  4. Vermont
  5. Minnesota
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Wisconsin
  8. New Jersey
  9. New York
  10. Washington

The 10 worst states for working moms:

  1. Lousiana
  2. Alabama
  3. Idaho
  4. Mississippi
  5. South Carolina
  6. Nevada
  7. Oklahoma
  8. New Mexico
  9. Arkansas
  10. West Virginia

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