New “California Women’s Well-Being Index” Provides First-Ever Comprehensive, Composite Portrait of How Women Are Faring Across the State

Interactive Web-Based Resource Sheds Light on Challenges Facing Women and Families in Many Parts of the State

SACRAMENTO – Californians who want to make sure that women are full and equal participants in the state’s economic and political life now have an important resource to support the effort.

The California Budget & Policy Center, in partnership with the Women’s Foundation of California, today released the California Women’s Well-Being Index, a fully interactive web-based tool that shows how women are faring in terms of health, economic standing, and political participation across the state. By providing data for each of California’s 58 counties, as well as state-level data by race and ethnicity, the Index provides an unprecedented look at some of the key challenges facing women and their families.

“The California Women’s Well-Being Index provides an entirely new way to gain insights into the experiences of women and their families,” said Chris Hoene, Executive Director of the Budget Center. “We believe that providing a wealth of timely information that goes down to the county level, and is easy to access and use, can help drive the kinds of policy changes that help women advance.”

The Budget Center and the Women’s Foundation of California will present the Index at a launch event at the Joan Palevsky Center in downtown Los Angeles this afternoon.

“The California Women’s Well-Being Index is an important and highly valuable tool for championing the rights of all women in our state,” said Surina Khan, Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Foundation of California, which helped support the creation of the Index. “The Index equips state and local decision-makers, advocates, and philanthropy with critical information to push for policy and systems change that can ensure economic well-being and equal opportunity for women, and a stronger and more prosperous California for all.”

The California Women’s Well-Being Index encompasses data on more than two dozen indicators across five basic facets, or “dimensions,” of women’s well-being: Health, Personal Safety, Employment & Earnings, Economic Security, and Political Empowerment.

Among all California counties, those ranking at the top of the Index’s assessment of overall women’s well-being are located in the greater San Francisco Bay Area or the greater Lake Tahoe region. The top five counties are: (1) Marin, (2) San Mateo, (3) Placer, (4) El Dorado, and (5) Sonoma. At the other end of the scale, the counties ranking lowest on the Index’s assessment of overall women’s well-being are: (58) Kings, (57) Lake, (56) Yuba, (55) Merced, and (54) Kern.

The Index’s overall rankings on women’s well-being for other selected counties across the state include Santa Clara County at 14th, Sacramento County at 25th, Los Angeles County at 31st, and Fresno County at 45th.

Beyond providing a top-level assessment of women’s well-being, the Index includes extensive county-level data that point to issues and challenges related to the lives of women and their families. For example, the Index shows:

  • Significant affordable housing challenges for single mothers. Across the state, fair market rent (for a two-bedroom apartment) is equal to well over half (60.1%) of the median income for single mothers. This affordability challenge is even greater in certain counties. Fair market rent is 64.7% of single mothers’ median income in San Francisco County, 64.1% in Santa Cruz County, 63.5% in Los Angeles County, and 62.8% in Trinity County.
  • Women’s health status that is generally lower in rural inland counties. The Index includes data that shows the percentage of women in each county reporting either “fair” or “poor” health. On this measure, counties ranked at the bottom – that is, with the largest percentage of women reporting fair or poor health – were rural inland counties: Stanislaus (30.1%), Imperial (30.0%), Kings (29.3%), and Tulare (28.4%).
  • Sizeable racial disparities across key measures of women’s economic standing. By providing state-level data broken down by race and ethnicity, the Index highlights a number of challenges that are especially affecting women of color. The Index shows that Latina, Black, Pacific Islander, and Native American women, compared to White and Asian women, have lower median earnings and are more likely to be living below the federal poverty line.

The California Women’s Well-Being Index is available on the California Budget & Policy Center’s website at calbudgetcenter.org/womens-well-being. The Index includes a downloadable fact sheet for each of California’s 58 counties.

In addition to holding today’s launch event in Los Angeles, the Budget Center and the Women’s Foundation of California plan to present the Index at other events across the state in the coming months.

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The California Budget & Policy Center engages in independent fiscal and policy analysis and public education with the goal of improving public policies affecting the economic and social well-being of low- and middle-income Californians. Support for the Budget Center comes from foundation grants, subscriptions, and individual contributions.

The Women’s Foundation of California (WFC) trains and invests in women to become policy advocates and philanthropic leaders who strengthen the economic well-being of California’s women and their families. Grounded in the belief that a truly prosperous state is only possible when women and their families are economically secure, WFC is committed to building a more just and equitable California.