Being a parent is tough in general, but when you're a woman raising children alone, it can be so much harder. In addition the the general stress of parenthood, single parents often also have to carry a greater burden of financial responsibility, both when it comes to earning enough to support their families, as well as paying for things like rent and childcare. But some parts of the country are less single-mom-friendly than others: these are the worst states for single moms, and probably aren't the best place to live if you're raising a family on your own.
According to personal finance website WalletHub, in 2016, there were nearly 10 million families in the United States led by single moms — about one-quarter of all households. And many of them face difficult financial circumstances: the median income for a single-mom household in 2014 was $24,403, which pales in comparison to the $84,541 brought home by married parents. It might be no surprise then, that according to Science Daily, single moms are more likely to live in poverty. But it's not just a matter of not being able to benefit from two incomes: while 4.24 million single mothers lived below the poverty line in 2012, only 404,000 single fathers did.
The reasons behind this inequality are complex and varied, and it definitely has a lot more to do with than simply where you happen to live. But recent reports looking at how different cities and states stacked up against one another based on different factors that would particularly affect women and mothers seem to suggest that, at the very least, geography might have something to do with it. And these states are some of the least single-mom friendly.
If you're a single mom in Alabama, it's probably not exactly great news to hear that the state generally performed pretty poorly in a number of different rankings. WalletHub, for one, compared states' performance in both how they rate for women in general in 2017 (looking at things like women's earnings, female poverty rates, and female homicide rates), as well as how they rate specifically for working moms (taking things like daycare costs into account). Their findings? Alabama ranked 49th out of 51 (when states were ranked closer to one if they were good and closer to 51 if they were bad) for the best states for women, and actually came last for women's health and safety. And it ranked even worse for working women, coming in last overall.
Other aspects of life in Alabama that don't bode well for single moms? WalletHub ranked the state as having one of the top five worst daycare systems in the country, one of the highest rates of women living in poverty, and the third lowest life expectancy for women in the country. And 2015 data from the Institute for Women's Policy Research didn't look much better: Alabama was tied for last place as the worst state for women, and ranked 50th for women's health and well-being.
The news wasn't all bad however: WalletHub found that Alabama had one of the lowest female high school dropout rates, as well as one of the lowest child care costs in the country.
Louisiana was another state that didn't do so well in WalletHub's analysis. It actually ranked one spot lower than Alabama regarding women, and second-last for working moms. Moving company MoveHub also ranked Louisiana low on its list of best states for women in 2017: it came in 49th out of 50.
Why is Louisiana such a bad fit for single moms? According to WalletHub, it also has a high percentage of female poverty, and ranks just above Alaska as having the highest female homicide rate. It also has one of the country's worst day care systems, a high gender pay gap, and in 2015, was named as one of the worst states for women's employment, poverty, health, and well-being, and political participation, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
In 2016, WalletHub Tulsa, Oklahoma ranked 131 out of 150 of the best cities for single moms, and a year later, Oklahoma came in at 44th and 35th place respectively for women and working moms. But the state unfortunately also earned the dubious title of being the worst state for women in 2017 by MoveHub, in large part due to its position on reproductive rights. One particular example? According to The Independent, a bill was introduced in February that would require pregnant women in the state to obtain the "informed consent" of the man who impregnated her before getting an abortion.
Oklahoma also ranked 4th lowest in both female life expectancy and female homicide rates, according to WalletHub. But one upside? It tied for third for having one of the country's best daycare systems.
When it comes to women-friendly states, Mississippi doesn't have much in the way of bragging rights: WalletHub ranked the state last overall. It did a little bit better for working mothers — 46th out of 51 — in part due to low child care costs, but it also made the list of worst day care systems. But that wasn't the only analysis that thought Mississippi had a lot of room for improvement.
Mississippi ranked 47th overall in best states for women, and the Institute for Women's Policy Research had Mississippi tied for last place in 2015. The state also scored low for women's employment, work and family, and came in last for both health and wellbeing and poverty.
(One win, at least? WalletHub ranked Jackson, MS, as being the third-highest city with a "child-friendly environment.")
Another state you may want to avoid moving to if you're a single mom is Arkansas. While Arkansas fared a bit better than the rest on WalletHub's overall rankings (placing 45th for the best states for women, and 39th for working moms), it still had some majorly concerning attributes. Arkansas ranked one spot below Alabama for its female poverty rate, and the Institute for Women's Policy Research also ranked it poorly for employment, poverty, and women's health.
If you are a single mom headed for Arkansas though, you might want to consider Little Rock: WalletHub ranked the city as the 18th best for single moms in 2016, and it took the top spot for having a "child-friendly environment."
There are, of course, good and bad aspects about all states and cities, and there certainly doesn't seem to be anywhere in the country where being a single mom is magically easy and wonderful. But the rankings show that, in some states, issues like poverty, life expectancy, and day care quality are big issues. And women trying to raise their children in poorly-ranked states could mean that they face a much bigger struggle than most parents do.