The Best and Worst U.S. States to Raise Girls

Poverty, high obesity rates, and a lag in education make Mississippi the worst place in the nation for young women.

(Photo: Wonwoo Lee/Getty Images)

Sep 10, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Raising girls? It might be harder in some states than others, according to a new report by the Girl Scout Research Institute. (Yes, there is a Girl Scout Research Institute.)

The study ranked all 50 states based on statistical indicators of the welfare of girls ages five to 17: physical health and safety, economic well-being, education, emotional health, and participation in extracurricular activities.

The lowest-ranked state is Mississippi, where one out of three school-age girls lives in poverty. About 37 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds are overweight, and 13 percent of six- to 17-year-olds have experienced neighborhood violence. Education in the Magnolia State lags as well: Only 20 percent of eighth-grade girls are proficient in math, well below the national rate of 34 percent, and just over a quarter of fourth graders can read at grade level or above, below the national rate of 37 percent.

Southern states didn’t fare well. Five of the 10 lowest-ranked states were in the Southeast; the other five were in the Southwest. Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona follow Mississippi as the worst states for a girl’s well-being, according to the report.

Low educational achievement and high levels of obesity and crime all correlate to poverty in the U.S., so states that are poorer were more likely, in the report’s formulation, to experience a piling-on effect, with low scores in other categories as well.

“I think there’s no doubt that Nevada was the most, or one of the most, hard-hit states by the recent recession,” Liz Ortenburger, CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada, told The Huffington Post.

“We do struggle with poverty,” she added. “We’re all concerned about education and about a child simply being enrolled in the classroom all year long.”

Girls in other states are more fortunate. New Hampshire ranked the best, helped by its girls’ high educational achievement, their broad participation in out-of-school activities, and a low poverty rate. In the New England state, 44 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math, and half of fourth graders read at grade level or above—higher than the national rates. Nine out of 10 girls take part in extracurricular activities, and 13 percent live in poverty.

To be sure, as Becky Traweek, CEO of the Greater Girl Scouts of Mississippi, told The Huffington Post, “data is not destiny.” The report “illustrates a huge opportunity for the entire United States to advocate on behalf of girls,” she said.

The 10 Worst States for Girls

New Mexico
West Virginia

The 10 Best States for Girls

New Hampshire
North Dakota
South Dakota
New Jersey