Loading
Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

In this study, we looked at data on various factors to determine the U.S. cities where women are most financially successful.

While women in the U.S. seeking financial and social equality still face many challenges, certain conditions have improved in recent years. That’s why SmartAsset wanted to take a look at where U.S. women are the most successful, considering factors including education, earnings and business ownership.

We analyzed 200 cities across the following metrics: percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree, median earnings for women working full-time, percentage of business owners who are women, housing costs as a percentage of women’s earnings and the percentage of full-time working women earning $75,000 or more. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s third study on the cities where women are most successful. You can read the 2019 study here

Key Findings

  • Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas rank high. Washington, D.C. finishes second in our study and two suburbs, Arlington, Virginia and Alexandria, Virginia also finish in the top 15. In all three cities, the median annual earnings for women are greater than $70,000. Going hand-in-hand with high median earnings, more than 45% of women in all three cities earn upwards of $75,000 a year.
  • Though New York City and San Francisco rank in the top fourth of the study, neither makes it into our top 10. New York, New York finishes 38th in our study, while San Francisco, California finishes 16th. Both cities fall behind on the percentage of business owners who are women and housing costs as a percentage of women’s earnings. Only about one-third of business owners are women and housing costs make up more than 30% of women’s earnings in both cities.

1. Cary, NC

Cary, North Carolina ranks in the top sixth of cities for all five metrics we considered, ranking particularly high for the percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree and the percentage of business owners who are women. More than 68% of women in Cary have a bachelor’s degree, the second-highest rate in this study. Cary ranks sixth-highest in the study in terms of women business owners – almost 54% of all business owners in the city are women.

2. Washington, DC

The nation’s capital ranks as the second city in our study where women are most successful. The District of Columbia ranks seventh-highest in two metrics: median earnings for women working full-time (close to $71,000) and percentage of full-time working women earning $75,000 or more (at 45.41%).

3. Arlington, VA

Like last year, Arlington, Virginia ranks as the third city in the U.S. where women are most successful. It leads the metric measuring bachelor’s degrees, as 76.19% of women in Arlington have at least a bachelor’s degree. Arlington also comes in second place in the median earnings metric. The median income for a woman working a full-time job in Arlington is $80,892. The city falls behind on one metric: housing costs as a percentage of women’s earnings. In 2018, median annual housing costs, across both renters and owners, made up more than 30% of average women’s earnings.

4. Seattle, WA 

Seattle, Washington has the third-highest percentage in the study of women with a bachelor’s degree. The Emerald City also finishes 10th-highest for two categories: the percentage of full-time working women earning at least $75,000 (43.30%) and the median earnings for full-time working women, $67,051. Like in Arlington, Virginia, housing costs in Seattle are unfortunately high and Seattle ranks 89th-highest out of all 200 cities for that metric. Specifically, housing costs as a percentage of women’s earnings is 32.46%.

5. Minneapolis, MN

Many women in Minneapolis, Minnesota have earned a higher education degree. According to Census Bureau data, in 2018, 53.63% of women living in the city had a bachelor’s degree. Advanced degrees may have propelled women in the area into higher paying jobs and careers. The median annual earnings for full-time working women was $52,921 in the same year, the 27th-highest rate for this metric in our study.

6. Chandler, AZ

Chandler, Arizona finishes in the top 30 for three different metrics. First, approximately 43% of business owners are women, the 22nd-best rate for this metric in our study. Next, median earnings for women working full-time is $54,811, the 24th-highest figure for this metric in the study. Finally, 28.58% of full-time working women earn at least $75,000 a year, the 29th-best rate for this metric across all 200 cities we analyzed.

7. Scottsdale, AZ

Taking the seventh spot overall, Scottsdale, Arizona finishes in the top 20 for three different metrics: it ranks 19th-highest for percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree (54.77%), 18th-highest for median annual earnings for full-time working women ($57,749) and 13th-highest for percentage of full-time working women with earnings of at least $75,000 (39.25%)

8. Atlanta, GA

More than half of women living in Atlanta, Georgia have a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, many women are making at least $75,000 annually. According to 2018 Census Bureau data, 32.08% of full-time working women earned $75,000 or more throughout the year, the 22nd-highest rate for this metric in our study. On the remaining three metrics, Atlanta ranked 22nd-highest for median annual earnings for full-time working women, 71st-highest for percentage of women business owners and 28th-highest for housing costs as a percentage of women’s earnings.

9. Durham, NC

Durham, North Carolina finishes 11th-highest in this study in terms of the prevalence of women business owners; more than 47% of all business owners in the city are women. The town in the heart of the North Carolina research triangle also finishes 29th-highest in terms of the percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree, at 50.53%.

10. Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon ranks in the top 25 cities for three metrics: 23rd-highest for percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree (52.95%), 25th-highest for median annual earnings for full-time working women ($53,119) and 25th-highest for percentage of business owners who are women (almost 43%).

Portland primarily falls behind on one metric: housing costs as a percentage of earnings for full-time working women. In 2018, median annual housing costs made up close to a third (32.17%) of median earnings for full-time working women.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where women are most successful, SmartAsset analyzed the 200 biggest cities in the country across the following five metrics:

  • Percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree. This is the percentage of women older than 25 who have a bachelor’s degree.
  • Median annual earnings for full-time working women. This amount is the median earnings for women who work full time.
  • Percentage of business owners who are women. This is the percentage of self-employed people who are women who work in their own incorporated business.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of earnings for full-time working women. This is the median annual housing costs divided by the median earnings for full-time working women.
  • Percentage of full-time working women with earnings of at least $75,000. This is the percentage of full-time working women who earn $75,000 or more per year.

Data for all metrics comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 1-year American Community Survey.

First, we ranked each city in each of the metrics. We then found the average ranking for each city, giving all metrics equal weight except for the percentage of full-time working women earning at least $75,000 per year, which was given a half weight. We then ranked each city by that weighted average. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100 and the city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

It is important to note that in our previous version of this study we additionally considered the unemployment rate for women. We did not include that metric this year, as unemployment rates have changed so drastically during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tips for Being Successful Financially, Even During an Economic Downturn

  • Keep your emergency savings top of mind. One of the best ways to prepare for the unknown is by having an emergency fund. Though typical financial wisdom suggests you should have savings that can cover three months’ worth of expenses, six months’ may be a better figure to shoot for during a recession.
  • Keep your budget top of mind. One of the best ways to save more is through budgeting. Our budget calculator can help with this. Beyond letting you see how much you spend each month and what sixth months of expenses would look like, you can see how cutting back on discretionary expenses can increase your savings rate.
  • Consider expert finance advice. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions such as being in better control of your money. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/fizkes

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
Was this content helpful?
Thanks for your input!