Study Ranks Houston Most Unsafe City for Women in the Country

By several markers — among them safety and access to health care — Houston lags behind other cities in the United States.
By several markers — among them safety and access to health care — Houston lags behind other cities in the United States.

It sucks to be a woman in Houston — or at least to feel as safe here compared to pretty much any other populous city across the country, according to a recent report.

Ahead of only Miami, Houston came in an underwhelming 260th place out of 261 cities in a study measuring women's safety using 31 metrics. Looking only at the 26 largest cities, Houston came in dead last. The data was compiled by the data-driven group ValuePenguin, which develops tools to aid consumers mostly in financial decisions, such as selecting the best credit card or car insurance options, but also lifestyle decisions — such as selecting the safest cities in which to live.

The study is based on the rankings on population-adjusted metrics including crime rates for crimes such as rape, other sexual violence, stalking and male-on-female homicide; health-related factors such as reproductive clinics per capita and breast and ovary cancer rates per capita; and public policies such as whether women can access paid family leave and pregnancy accommodations at work. Houston ranked 240th in crime, 126th in public policy, 217th in education and wealth, and 238th in women's health care (Perhaps the state leadership is to thank: Other Texas cities were similarly worse-off when it came to women's healthcare, with San Antonio and Dallas ranking 206 and 212 and our neighbor Pasadena at the bottom of the barrel at 257).

Andrew Pentis, who worked on this project with ValuePenguin, said that population appeared to have little impact on the rankings, and so it's not Houston's size that's making it unsafe according to this data. Pentis said it was somewhat of a surprising finding; New York, for example, rang in at No. 11, Chicago at No. 90 and L.A. at No. 97. Texas overall didn't look too hot: It dominated the last 20 most unsafe cities, with similarly populated San Antonio and Dallas clocking in at 249 and 248, respectively. “Perhaps there is a larger issue at stake here — but that would be speculation,” Pentis said.

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While it may be difficult, if not impossible, to speculate beyond the data as to the root cause of such a poor standing for women's safety in Houston, Houston Area Women's Center Chief Program Officer Sonia Corrales said several key factors in general can contribute to violence against women or gender discrimination. Chiefly: lack of available funding for domestic violence prevention and intervention resources, Corrales said.

Corrales said that, while the state as a whole has improved its financial commitment to boosting organizations like the Houston Area Women's Center in the past several years, advocates still have to fight harder than they'd like for a big enough piece of the pie, and the state still has plenty of work to do in prioritizing gender equality and women's health and safety. Another hurdle, Corrales said, is making sure politicians who hold the purse strings are actually informed about the issues facing women on local levels so they can actually develop policies to help them.

If Texans, at least, are looking for the root cause as to why Texas cities rank so poorly when it comes to women's health and safety, perhaps they don't have to look any further than the many months politicians spent arguing that the state's restrictive abortion laws, which would have shuttered all but nine reproductive health clinics, were enacted in the name of women's health and were even what women wanted. It was an idea shot down by the Supreme Court this summer.

As for Houston specifically, however, Corrales too said she couldn't speculate.

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