2016 Status of North Dakota Women

Download the full report here.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) published in 2004 The Status of Women in North
Dakota. The report described women’s status in North Dakota using various demographic characteristics and key indicators. The study found that North Dakota was one of the top-ranked states for women’s health and well-being, voter participation, and women’s to men’s earnings ratio.

However, as noted in the 2004 study, North Dakota’s women were underrepresented in the state legislatures, were less likely to work in professional and managerial positions than women in most other states, and had among the lowest median earnings for full-time, year-round work. In addition, women in North Dakota were among the most likely to live in poverty and the least likely to own a business in the nation. The study also identified racial and ethnic disparities in the state. Women Of Color in the state were particularly disadvantaged in their political, social, and economic status.

North Dakota has undergone many changes since 2004 and a new evaluation of the status of women in North Dakota finds progress in some areas-in particular education, racial and ethnic diversity, and business ownership-but still wage gaps between men and women over the national average, underrepresentation in state legislatures, and high incidence of poverty.

This report was made possible with the support of North Dakota Compass Center for Social Research and North Dakota State University.


  • North Dakota’s population increased considerably the past 10 years, with growth rates higher than any other state.
  • North Dakota women are young and getting younger: median age is 36.3, almost three yrs younger than national average of 39.0 years
  • North Dakota women are more diverse, with those identifying as a race other than White increasing 3.2%
  • North Dakota women are the minority, with 95 females for every 100 males overall
  • In the age group 65+, women outnumber men, 123 females for every 100 males.
  • 2/3 of ND single women are single mothers with children under 18 years old.
  • Family structure in North Dakota has changed with an increase in the percentage of women who have never been married.


  • North Dakota women have made progress in educational attainment. The percentage of women with high school diploma or less decreased while the percentage of women with all other forms of higher education increased.
  • North Dakota women are more successful than men in completing a postsecondary education. Women have outpaced men in on time college graduation since 2002; starting in 2007, women outpaced men in bachelor’s degree attainment.
  • Women in North Dakota are less likely to not have completed high school than women in the U.S.
  • Women in North Dakota are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than women in the U.S.
  • Women identifying with a race other than white are more likely to have less than a high school diploma than White women in North Dakota; Hispanic and American Indian and Alaska Native women were less likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher than all other races and ethnicities.

Economic Status

  • North Dakota ranks first in labor force participation for both men and women
  • North Dakota has a high percentage of single mothers in labor force (84.3%).
  • North Dakota has a significant gender-based wage gap, with women earning 73 cents for every dollar earned by men, a larger gap than on average in US (ND 27.5% wage gap vs. US 20.9%).
  • Certain occupations have significant employment gaps, in particular Natural Resources and Construction, Production and Transportation
  • Increase in female entrepreneurs from 23.3% of all firms owned by women in 2002 to 29.8% in 2012.
  • In North Dakota, women are more likely to live in poverty, in particular single mothers (nearly 40%).


  • A majority of women in North Dakota report very good and excellent health status.
  • White women are more likely to start prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy than those identifying with a race other than white.
  • A smaller percentage of babies were born at low birth weight in North Dakota than the U.S. and states in the region. Women of color in North Dakota are slightly more likely to give birth to infants with low birth weight.
  • Females in North Dakota are more likely to have health insurance than males.
  • North Dakota women are more likely than men to have cancer (other than skin), but less likely than men to have diabetes, a stroke, or a heart attack.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to report being diagnosed with a depressive disorder.
  • The mortality rate for all causes of death is higher for females than for males.
  • Mortality rates are higher for females in North Dakota than the U.S.

Political Participation

  • North Dakota residents have higher rates of voter participation than the U.S.
  • Women have similar or higher voter participation rates than men in North Dakota, especially in presidential elections.
  • North Dakota ranks last among states in the region and 39th in the U.S. in the representation of women in state legislatures.
  • No women of color hold elected office in North Dakota.

Violence and Safety

  • Female students in North Dakota are more likely than males to be bullied on school property and to be bullied electronically.
  • Female students are more likely than males to experience physical dating violence.
  • Females represent at least 90 percent of victims of sexual assault and 93 percent of victims of domestic violence in North Dakota.