National magazine ranks Maine as best state for equality

Posted March 02, 2017, at 7:18 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The national magazine U.S. News & World Report, which regularly publishes national rankings, named Maine the most equal state in the nation.

The magazine looked at opportunities states offer their citizens, including parity between the genders in the labor force, politics and education, racial equality in employment and educational opportunities, and employment rates for disabled residents, among other measures.

Notable is that Maine tops the list for gender parity, according to the U.S. News & World Report analysis, based on McKinsey & Company’s Leading States Index. As a region, New England scored best for gender parity, with New Hampshire and Connecticut vying for No. 2 and Massachusetts tied for No. 5 with Hawaii and Arizona.

This measure was based on an examination of the ratio of men and women in unpaid family care work, rates of higher education and political representation, violence against women, labor force participation, and employment in professional jobs, leadership and management positions.

Maine often ranks toward the top of national lists of the best and worst states for women’s equality.

The finance website WalletHub in 2016 reported that Maine boasted one of the slimmest gaps between men and women for educational attainment and political representation, for example, ranking third overall for gender parity.

Women in Maine are the most politically empowered in the nation, according to the WalletHub analysis, which looked at representation at the state and federal levels.

Two of Maine’s four congressional representatives are women (Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree), while last year, women held a third of the seats in the Maine Legislature, compared with just a quarter on average nationally, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Maine also earned high marks from U.S. News & World Report for education equality by race (No. 2), while it fell toward the middle of the pack in terms of the racial gap in income (No. 30) and employment equality by race (No. 37).

But the unemployment gap for Mainers with disabilities was higher than anywhere else in the nation, according to U.S. World & News Report.

In Maine, about 18 percent of people with disabilities were unemployed, compared with only a 4.4 percent unemployment rate among people without a disability. The national average is 14 percent for people with disabilities.

One reason for the low employment rate for Mainers with disabilities is that they tend to have lower rates of educational attainment. A 2012 report from the Maine Department of Labor found that only 10 percent of Mainers with disabilities have a four-year college degree or higher, compared with 27 percent for those without disabilities. On average, 20 percent of Maine adults with disabilities have less than a high school education, compared with 6 percent for adults without disabilities.

At a time when Maine’s workforce is shrinking, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Development Foundation in their “ Making Maine Work: Growing Maine’s Workforce” report said businesses should increase workforce participation among the disabled.

The organization said education and training programs would help to grow labor force participation among disabled Mainers. For instance, more than 800 Mainers with disabilities who received training through the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, a unit of the Maine Department of Labor, were able to get and keep jobs, according to the 2012 Department of Labor report.

 

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