The first release from Status of Women in the States: 2015, a project of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), found that, if current trends in narrowing the pay gap in the states continue, the date when women in the U.S. will achieve equal pay is 2058, but new projections for individual state find this date is much further out in the future for women in many parts of the country.

In some states, a woman born today likely will not see wage equality in her lifetime. The report finds that at the current rate, five states — West Virginia, Utah, Louisiana, North Dakota and Wyoming — will not see equal pay until the next century. Women in Wyoming will not see equal pay until 2159.

The Best and the Worst

The study is the first ever to project when the wage gap will close for every state in the nation. The report analyzes data on women’s employment and earnings, and provides state rankings and letter grades based on a composite index first developed by IWPR in 1996.

Overall, the best place for women’s employment and earnings is the District of Columbia, with an overall grade of A, while the worst is West Virginia, with a grade of F. The grades take into account women’s status on the level of earnings, the gender wage gap, labor force participation and women’s representation in professional and managerial occupations.

“When we looked back at how the states measured up in the past, we found that, despite progress in many parts of the country, women’s status on employment and earnings either worsened or stalled in nearly half of the states in the last decade,” said IWPR President and MacArthur Fellow Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. “When half the country is not seeing any gains in women’s employment and earnings, it is a concerning prospect for the nation’s economy as a whole.”

Mind the Gap

The report shows that a typical working woman in the United States loses more than $530,000 over her lifetime due to the gender wage gap. The losses are greater for women with higher levels of education. By the time a full-time woman worker with a college education turns 59, IWPR researchers calculate that she will have lost almost $800,000 throughout her life.

Nationally, a woman with a bachelor’s degree working full-time, year-round, earns wages comparable to a man with an associate’s degree, and a woman with a graduate degree earns less than men with bachelor’s degrees.

This first report in the series includes data on topics such as low-wage workers, older women, millennials, immigrant women, women with disabilities, women in unions and women in STEM occupations, and also provides detailed breakdowns by race and ethnicity. Along with this report, IWPR launched a new web site,, an interactive tool for leaders and the public to access information and additional data for each state.

The report shows large disparities in women’s employment and earnings among the states. Southern women are worse off than women in other regions of the country: Six of the bottom 10 states for women’s employment and earnings are in the South. Louisiana, West Virginia and Utah have the highest proportions of women earning low wages.

Men are more than twice as likely as women to work in the manufacturing, transportation and communications industries, whereas women are substantially more likely than men to work in health care, education and other services. Men are also more than twice as likely as women to work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations, where women are 28.8% of the STEM workforce nationwide.

Women are most likely to work in STEM occupations in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Massachusetts, which are also the three states with the highest median annual earnings for women.

Women’s earnings differ considerably by race and ethnicity. Hispanic women have the lowest median annual earnings at $28,000, well below the earnings for all women ($38,000) and significantly below the earnings of white men ($52,000). Hispanic women make just 53.8 cents for every dollar a white man makes.

Analysis of the earnings data on detailed racial and ethnic categories shows disparities within larger racial/ethnic groups. Among Asian and Pacific Islander women, for example, Asian Indian women earn more than twice as much as Hmong women ($60,879 and $30,000, respectively, in median annual earnings for full-time, year-round work).

‘Bold, Coordinated Action’ Needed

“Data like these can help us pinpoint, at both a state and national level, how and where we can improve employment and workforce policies to end stubborn inequality by gender, race and ethnicity,” said IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault, Ph.D. “The nation needs to take bold, coordinated action to speed the pace of progress toward closing the wage gap and ending discrimination by sex and race.”

Throughout the spring, IWPR will release additional reports from the Status of Women in the States: 2015 with national and state-level data on Poverty & Opportunity, Violence & Safety, Health & Well-Being, Reproductive Rights, Political Participation, and Work & Family. Data on Violence & Safety and Work & Family are new additions to the 2015 edition.

Since the first Status of Women in the States release in 1996, the reports have been used to increase community and private investment in programs and policies that improve outcomes for women throughout the United States. Visit for more information about the Status of Women in the States project and upcoming releases.

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.