WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – A new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks the best and worst states for working parents in the U.S.
The report looked at four main components when determining the rankings.
1) Paid leave
2) Dependent and elder care
3) Child care
4) Gender gap in the labor force participation of parents of kids under six
The final component is “an indicator that highlights gender inequality in family care of young children,” according to IWPR.
As for the paid leave component in the study, it looked at state policies on Temporary Disability Insurance, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick days. For dependent and elder care, the study looked in part at the availability of unemployment insurance benefits for a worker who has to leave his or her job to take care of a family member. It also looked at the availability and level of dependent care tax credits for the care of a dependent adult relative. The child care component includes three indicators, enrollment of four-year-olds in publicly funded pre-Kindergarten, preschool special education, and state and federal Head Start programs, state systems to ensure quality of pre-K education, and the costs of infant care at daycare centers.
Not a single state received a rating above a “B.” New York, California and the District of Columbia all received a “B” in part because of their high rankings on paid leave. States in the Pacific, Midwest and Northeast are most likely to be among the top performing states.
States in the Mountain West are least likely to perform well. Three states received an “F;” Indiana, Utah and Montana. Those three states had the lowest scores on the index and rank in the bottom for three of the four components.
Virginia received a D- and ranks #35.
According to the report, less than half of working women received paid maternity leave before or after the birth of their child. California ranks highest on paid leave because it is the only state in which workers are covered by TDI and family leave insurance (up to six weeks of paid family leave) and have a right to earn paid sick days.
Elder and Dependent Care
When it comes to elder and dependent care, the two best ranked states, Colorado and Minnesota, make unemployment insurance available to someone who had to leave work to provide care for a family member, and provide a refundable tax credit for dependent care of at least $500 among other things. The three worst ranked states, Florida, Indiana, and Michigan, do not extend unemployment insurance to workers who have to leave their jobs to provide family care, and do not have a tax credit for dependent care among other things, according to the report.
Cost of Infant Care
The cost of daycare centers for infants is just one of many factors the report analyzed. It found the lowest proportion of infant care costs in a center to a women’s median earnings is in Alabama (16.8%). The highest is in the District of Columbia (36.6%).
Early Childhood Education
In the District of Columbia, parents have access to inexpensive and quality early childhood education. All four-year-olds can attend publicly provided preschool education. The District of Columbia also meets eight of ten pre-K quality indicators, according to the IWPR report. Oklahoma, West Virginia and Georgia also have high rates of access and high quality ratings. The analysis reports access to public pre-school education is lowest in New Hampshire, Hawaii, Idaho, and Utah.
Gender Gap in the Workforce
In all 50 states, women with children under six-years-old are less likely to be working than men. However, Utah has the largest gender gap in the parental labor force at 42.7%. Maine has the lowest gender gap at 13.7%.