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Report shows Kentucky has positives, negatives for working moms

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(The Center Square) – A new study found Kentucky placed in the middle nationally when it comes to the best states for working moms, but it still trails many of its surrounding states.

WalletHub ranked Kentucky 25th overall in its report. The personal financial site reviewed child care, professional opportunities and work-life balance in each state and the District of Columbia, using 17 data points to determine the rankings.

The Bluegrass State’s highest rankings came in the number of child care workers per number of children, where it ranked seventh. It finished 10th for child care costs, which account for just 15.55% of the median salary for women in Kentucky. That figure, $48,381, was 19th best nationally.

Women also earn 84.5 cents for every dollar a man earns in Kentucky. That was good for 18th nationally and above the national average of 82 cents.

Still, Kentucky has areas for improvement that kept it from earning a higher ranking. The state’s share of families in poverty, 41.8%, was fifth-worst nationally, and its 4.3% unemployment rate for women was sixth-worst. WalletHub also found Kentucky ranked among the bottom quarter in day care quality.

While Kentucky came in 25th nationally, neighboring states Ohio (35th), Missouri (37th) and West Virginia (45th) ranked lower. Illinois (15th) and Indiana (17th) were the only neighboring states to land in the top 20 overall. Tennessee and Virginia placed 21st and 23rd, respectively.

Massachusetts was the top state for working mom’s according to the WalletHub study, and Alabama was the worst.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, moms with kids under 18 years of age had a labor participation rate, which is defined as the percentage of people either working or actively seeking a job, of 74% last year. That was up from 72.9% in 2022. The participation rate for fathers was 93.4% last year, up from 92.9%.

Experts agree companies need to provide flexibility for parents to help them achieve a proper work-life balance.

“For lower-wage jobs, other types of flexibility can be instituted, like having job-sharing policies or a bank of substitute employees available for emergency absences,” said Melissa Rector LaGraff, a research associate at the University of Tennessee Social Work Office of Research and Public Service in Knoxville. “Paid sick leave that an employee can use for themselves and when family members are sick.”

Beth Trammell, an associate professor of psychology and the director of the Mental Health Counseling Program at Indiana University East, added companies can also set an example by respecting employees’ time away from the office.

“For example, receiving an email after hours (without the explicitly stated expectations that one does not need to respond until the next business day) can create a perception of needing to respond immediately,” she said. “Leaders could encourage positive work/home balance by modeling this well, but also to encourage working parents to engage in joyful/fun activities when leaving work.”

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