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Study: Wage Gap for Utah Women Worst in U.S.

A new report shows that women working full-time jobs in Utah make only about 70% of that similarly employed men make, about 10% lower than the national average. (bernardboto/AdobeStock)
A new report shows that women working full-time jobs in Utah make only about 70% of that similarly employed men make, about 10% lower than the national average. (bernardboto/AdobeStock)
August 21, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY – A new poll shows that Utah women rank last among the 50 states for the amount of money they make compared with men.

Data from a study by YMCA Utah and the Institute for Women's Policy Research found the so-called wage gap for Utah women with full-time jobs was just 68.9% of what similarly employed men make – 10% lower than the national average.

Erin Jemison, policy director at YMCA Utah, cites a variety of cultural and policy-based reasons for Utah women to have fallen so far behind.

"Not until we start to look at what are some of those gender norms going on in their home life but then also how do we make workplaces more family friendly so that both men and women can take care of those needs, will we really start to see that gap close,” says Jemison. “And that's really where our policy focus is. "

Jemison says the study finds that women often bear much of the caretaking burden in families and that can have a major effect on what jobs they take or how long they keep them. The study not only examined women's economic well-being, but their health and safety, educational attainment and political participation.

The poll also looked at Utah women's status by race and ethnicity. Valerie Lacarte, lead researcher on the study for the Institute for Women's Policy Research, says black and Hispanic women appeared to be working harder but making even less.

"When we look at women of color, they tend to have a higher labor-force participation rate than white women, but their earnings are lower,” says Lacarte. “And this is, again, still comparing just full-time workers."

Jemison says they only recently began keeping these kind of statistics in 2015, and they don't have a long data sample for comparison. But she adds that some trends already are beginning to emerge from the annual study.

"We started last year to have a reliable comparative data source that we can pull every single year to see kind of a snapshot of women's lives in Utah from a variety of angles and see where we're seeing improvement and where we still see the barriers,” says Jemison.

She says the poll found that 90% of Utah women live above the poverty line, more than 3% over the national average; and almost 89% have health insurance. It also found that Utah women vote at a higher rate than women in other parts of the country, and the number of women elected to political offices in the state has doubled since 2015.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT