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The Well-Being of Women in Utah

The YWCA Utah began the nonpartisan Utah Women’s Well-Being Initiative in May 2013 to respond more effectively to persistent challenges Utah women face. The purpose of the initiative is to strengthen the well-being of Utah women across important dimensions of their lives through research, education, collaboration, and public policy – so that women flourish, their families and communities thrive, and Utah prospers. The YWCA’s first contribution, in collaboration with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C. and a Utah Advisory Committee, is the research briefing Women’s Well-Being in Utah: An Overview, completed in March 2014. Click here to access the full briefing.


The following is a summary of key findings:


Utah Women and Work: Strong Labor Force Participation, Large Gender Wage Gap

  • Utah has a higher share of women 16 and older in the workforce than the nation overall (61.6 percent compared with 58.8 percent), and ranks 17thin the nation. 
  • Utah women’s median annual earnings for full-time, year-round work are lower than women nationwide, while men’s are higher than in the U.S. overall—resulting in a larger gender wage gap in Utah (69 percent, ranking Utah 47thamong all states and D.C.).
  • Women continue to earn less than men even if they have achieved higher educational levels. 


Education: Completing College is Key to Utah Women’s Well-Being

  • Women with higher levels of education consistently earn more than women with lower levels, and are less likely to live in poverty.
  • Women in Utah are less likely than men to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The 4.6 percentage point difference at this level of education represents the largest gender gap among all the states. 
  • The graduation rate for women at public four-year institutions is 49 percent, which is nearly 10 percentage points lower than the rate for women nationwide (58.5 percent). Nearly one in three Utah women 25 and older (28.7 percent) has some college education but no degree.


Economic Security: Poverty Rates Lower for Utah Women than U.S. Women Overall, But Single Moms and Women of Color Disproportionately at Risk

  • In Utah in 2012, 12.6 percent of all women had incomes below the federal poverty line. An additional 7.3 percent of women had family incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the poverty line. 
  • In 2010 – 2012, nearly four in ten families in Utah headed by single women with children were poor (37.2 percent). 


Health: Personal Safety and Mental Health Issues Are Concerns for Many Utah Women

  • More than one-third (36.9 percent) of Utah women 18 and older have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, a slightly higher rate than for women in the US overall (35.6 percent).
  • The suicide rate for Utah women is the ninth highest female suicide rate among all states.
  • 17.6% of Utah women between 18 and 64 lack health insurance coverage.


Political Leadership and Participation: Utah Women More Likely than Men to Vote, but Women’s Representation in Government is Low

  • Women held 16.3 percent of seats in the 2014 Legislature. This ranks Utah 45thamong 50 states and D.C.
  • No Utah woman holds statewide elected office.
  • No Utah woman holds a seat in Congress.


Race and Ethnicity: Utah Women Face Disparities

  • Median earnings: Hispanic women had the lowest earnings and non-Hispanic white women the highest, followed by non-Hispanic minority women.
  • Educational levels: The share of Hispanic women with a bachelor’s degree or higher was less than half the shares of all other minority groups combined and non-Hispanic white women.
  • Poverty rates: Hispanic women were more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic white women to be poor.
  • Rates of health insurance coverage:45.3 percent of Hispanic women had health insurance coverage, compared with 21.8 percent of non-Hispanic minority women and 13.3 percent of non-Hispanic white women.
  • Political leadership: Of the 17 legislative seats held by women, three are held by Hispanic women and 14 by white, non-Hispanic women. No women from other non-Hispanic groups hold legislative office.


Resources for Further Reading and Research