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Status of women report shows New Hampshire disparities

September 27, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A new report concludes that New Hampshire women are healthier, safer and more economically secure than those in many other states, but significant disparities exist based on region and race.

The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation released its first report Thursday on the status of women, pulling together data on 15 indicators including health insurance coverage, domestic and sexual violence, poverty and leadership in government and business.

“Even though New Hampshire generally does really well compared to other states when you look at traditional economic security measures, like the rate of poverty or the rate of health insurance coverage, there are really significant disparities behind those measures,” said Sarah Matson Dustin, the foundation’s director of policy. She co-authored the report with Kristin Smith, a family demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy.

Using U.S. Census figures released this month and other data, they found that while 90 percent of all New Hampshire adults have health insurance, white women have the highest rate of coverage at 92 percent while black women have the lowest rate at 77 percent.

More women hold high school and college degrees, but they are “way behind” economically, Dustin said, with women who work full-time, year-round earning 79 cents for every $1 men earn. That gender gap is narrower in northern New Hampshire, but the poverty rate for women in northern Coos County was 13 percent, more than twice as high as in Rockingham County in the southeastern corner of the state. Among women age 65 and older, median personal income is $15,800 less than men in the same age group, and women with bachelor’s degrees have less personal income than men with no college education.

While the state has elected two female governors and was the first to have an all-female Congressional delegation, only 29 percent of state lawmakers are women. Five of the 13 mayors across the state are women, as are about 30 percent of city councilors. Among companies with 1,000 or more workers, only 17 percent are run by women.

“There’s huge room for growth for women’s leadership in this state,” Dustin said.

Katie Merrow, who oversees the community impact department of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, said she hopes the report will spur greater investment in the area of workforce development.

“Women in New Hampshire have historically had very high rates of labor participation, they’re critical to the workforce,” she said. “The report points to ways we could increase economic security for women while addressing critical workforce needs. We need to strengthen advising on career pathways for women and girls, especially for those who have the least opportunity. That could include early-exposure and work-based learning in STEM fields, that could include strengthening pathways to advancement in health care, including scholarships and workforce supports.”

The foundation plans to update the data every two years, and next year will release a similar report on the status of girls.

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