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Maps

Where Women of Color Live

A new report maps the geography of American women by race and ethnicity.

Joshua Lott/REUTERS, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

From the violent misogyny spewing out from one campaign, to perhaps more predictable sexism targeting the other, gender has emerged as a hot election-season issue, with conversations about the daily experiences of women taking place on a national stage.

It might be a good moment to take a deeper look at women of color, who face particular economic and social challenges by virtue of their gender and skin color. A new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) does just that, tracing the geography of American womankind and revealing where different racial and ethnic groups of women actually live.

Overall, two out of five women of color are located in the South. But a more nuanced picture emerges when that broad category is broken down further by race and ethnicity. It’s black women who concentrate in Southern states. The highest share of Hispanic women are in the Pacific and Mountain West states. In fact, the IWPR report describes that area as the “most broadly diverse region in the country,” with larger populations of Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and biracial and multiracial women living there, compared to the U.S. as a whole. The South, on the other hand, just has a larger proportion of black women than the rest of the country.

Here are IWPR’s map showing this distribution for various groups of women:

This geography is important for lawmakers to note, as women’s problems don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. “Because whites have been the largest group, their situation is often taken as the norm and solutions developed may make sense for white women, but the problem may be larger and the solutions different when considering [women of color],” says Heidi Hartmann, president of IWRP.

And they’re not a monolithic group either. Black girls are disproportionately expelled from school, and as adults, they can be victims of police brutality. Native American women suffer from appallingly high rates domestic and sexual violence. Hispanic women face barriers accessing health care. And many groups of Asian women routinely encounter wage theft. Only when lawmakers gain a detailed understanding of who the most vulnerable women are and what specific problems they face can they create an environment where all women thrive. “We need to understand that diversity is a nuanced concept, with tremendous variation,” Hartmann says, “so that we can target policy solutions and make sure no group slips through the cracks.”

About the Author

  • Tanvi Misra
    Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering demographics, inequality, and urban culture. She previously contributed to NPR's Code Switch blog and BBC's online news magazine.