BISMARCK, N.D. --- State lawmakers have made progress in recent years, but could do more to help North Dakotans living in poverty, according to a new state by state report from the Center for American Progress.
The center says North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, but the report 's lead author Rachel West says the state also has the fourth-highest gender wage gap.
To help women in the workforce, West, who is associate director of the center 's Poverty to Prosperity Program, suggests North Dakota could join states such as Rhode Island by setting up a paid family-leave program.
"Since they are disproportionately caregivers and disproportionately they tend to work part-time, policies like paid sick and family leave could really go a long way to benefit working women in North Dakota, who seem to be having a really hard time," she explains.
The report says positives for North Dakota include the state having the lowest rate of people living with food insecurity in 2014, and a good supply of affordable housing for low-income families.
Still, the state struggles with income inequality at levels higher than the national average. West says North Dakota lawmakers could help close that gap by enacting more protections for low-income residents, who sometimes rely on high-interest payday loans to make ends meet.
"Making sure that there's affordable credit available to families who fall on hard times, -- she explains. --"Making sure that the rest of the safety net and social insurance systems step in, so that families don't have to turn to these high-cost predatory loans."
The report lists other suggestions for reducing poverty in North Dakota, including raising wages for low-paid workers.