Utah has one of the largest gender wage gaps in the nation; women earn 71 cents per dollar that a man earns.
In 2016, American women earned approximately 20% less than men. 1 This gap has narrowed substantially since 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was passed and women earned 41% less than men; 2 yet a gap persists, and a half century later women are still paid less than men in almost every occupation. Closing the gender wage gap will strengthen women’s economic impact in their families, communities, and the state.
Wage Gap Overview
Simply stated, the gender wage gap is the difference between what women and men earn for paid work. The gap can be measured in many ways, and as metrics become more specific and comprehensive, the gap generally narrows, but remains significant. 7 The gap is a complicated and disputed topic, 8 and some argue it is a myth or simply the result of women’s choices. It is impossible to identify a single explanation for the gender wage gap due to the interconnected web of related factors.
The Wage Gap in Utah
Despite Utah having some of the fastest-growing incomes in the United States, 29 Utah’s prosperity does not necessarily extend to all segments of the population, specifically working women. Utah has unique cultural and demographic factors that may contribute to the high gender wage gap. For example, about 60% of Utahns identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). 30 Mormon culture emphasizes marriage and motherhood as a high priority for women, which is demonstrated by the fact that Utah has the nation’s highest marriage rate, the earliest age for marriage,31 the second highest fertility rate, 32 and the largest average household size.33 These factors contribute to the high gender wage gap, since many women in the state prioritize family during their key earning years, which can leave them at a disadvantage in wage potential and actual pay.
Closing the Gender Wage Gap in Utah
The gender wage gap is a complex, multi-faceted issue that affects everyone, especially the 42% of American women who are the primary or sole breadwinner in their homes. This number is much lower in Utah, 26.3%, the lowest rate in the nation. Still, 46.4% of Utah women contribute at least 25% of their family’s total income, which means that women’s relatively low wages do affect Utah households and families.42 Furthermore, there are 88,000 families in Utah that have a female head of household, and more than 25% of these households live below the
poverty line. 43 The poverty level is even higher (37.5%) for female headed households with children under 18, and when children under age five are present, the poverty rate is 46.9%.44 Because of the very low household income, most of these families rely on public assistance in one form or another. Reducing the wage gap is a critical goal, yet it will take concerted efforts by many stakeholders, including educators, corporations, and legislators.
Read the full Research Snapshot The Gender Wage Gap in Utah