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Report Rates Women's Equality

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Women in New England tend to enjoy greater degrees of economic, political and social status than those in other parts of the country, a new study suggests.

Connecticut and Vermont rated highly in the new report from the nonprofit Institute for Women's Policy Research, which gives ratings to the 50 states and the District of Columbia according to women's rights and equality, based on various economic and social indicators.

And while some states in the South rated poorly in the report, ``women have not achieved equality with men in any state, and even those states with better policies for women do not ensure equal rights for women,'' the Washington-based public policy research group said in the report being released Wednesday.

``Of course there are wonderful things in every state for women,'' said Amy Caiazza, study director for the Institute. ``But even in states that are doing better, there is a lot of room for improvement.''

The nonpartisan group's first report was issued in 1996 to stimulate debate on women's issues in statehouses around the nation. The institute's research deals with matters such as poverty, welfare, health care and domestic violence.

The Institute is affiliated with George Washington University in Washington. The report was part of a larger educational program funded primarily by the Ford Foundation, with additional donations from Motorola Corp., the Minnesota Women's Foundation and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation.

The rankings are based on women's status in the following categories: political participation, employment and earnings, economic autonomy, reproductive rights and health and well-being.

It did not produce an overall ranking of states, though a summary in the report noted that Connecticut, Vermont and Washington ranked in the top 10 in at least three of the categories, while the Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee ranked in the bottom 10 in at least three categories.

Mississippi, for example, ranked 51st in terms of women's reproductive rights, and 49th in economic autonomy, which included factors like the percent of women with health insurance and the percent of women-owned businesses.

``We've passed in one area — health and well-being. It's not a satisfactory situation,'' said Marianne Hill, senior economist for Mississippi's Center for Policy Research and Planning. ``The key is to get more women in leadership roles, not just in government, but in the business world and education.''

Vermont ranked first for reproductive rights, and both Vermont and Connecticut were in the top 10 for political participation and economic autonomy.

Judith Sutphen, executive director of the Governor's Commission on Women in Vermont cautioned that more progress is needed. In Vermont, she noted, the report said women working full-time, year-round made about 74 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts made, which also was the national average.

Wyoming had the lowest ratio, 63 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The District of Columbia's 86 cents was the smallest earnings gap.

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On the Net:

Institute for Women's Policy Research: http://www.iwpr.org/

Feminist Majority Foundation: http://www.feminist.org/
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