New Research Attributes Most of Utah’s Gender Gap in Wages to Discrimination

Discrimination explains most of the gender wage gap in Utah, according to new research released by Voices for Utah Children.

Only 27% of the Utah gender gap can be explained by factors such as work qualifications and occupational choices, while 73% of the gap can be attributed to discrimination, defined as employers paying equally qualified women less than men for the same kinds of work.

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The effect of discrimination on women’s wages in Utah is on par with the effect of discrimination nationally. “In Utah and throughout the United States, discrimination is the single most important factor that prevents women from earning as much money as men,” said Matthew Weinstein, State Priorities Partnership Director for Voices for Utah Children.

“But when we ask, ‘Why is Utah’s wage gap so much worse than other states?’ the numbers tell a different story,” added Weinstein. On average, Utah women are less educated and less likely to be employed in higher paying occupations and industries, exacerbating the wage gap problem.

Utah’s wage gap is the 4th highest in the nation. While most American women can expect to earn 79¢ for every dollar earned by a man, Utah women earn only 70¢.

“Discrimination explains most of Utah’s wage gap, just as it explains most of America’s wage gap,” said Curtis Miller, the University of Utah Department of Economics Master’s degree student who conducted the research project. “But the qualifications and characteristics of male and female workers in Utah, such as women having less education than men and having less success breaking into the higher paying sectors, explain why Utah’s wage gap is so much larger than the rest of the nation.” Miller also co-authored Utah’s Gender Opportunity: An examination of the difference between the earnings of Utah men and women with Weinstein in January of this year. 

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About 33% of Utah working men hold a bachelor’s degree, similar to the national rate for working men of 34%. However, while 39% of American working women hold bachelor’s degrees, only 30% of Utah working women hold bachelor’s degrees. These gaps between working men and women is in sharp contrast to the half-point gap that existed a generation ago.

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According to Weinstein, Utah could combat the wage gap by discouraging discrimination, promoting women’s education and entry into higher-paying occupations and industries, and by creating family-friendly workplace policies. Since women earn so much less than men and are so over-represented in low-wage occupations, policies that boost take-home pay for lower-income workers such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are particularly vital for Utah women and their families.

For more information see the complete report, Explaining Utah’s Gender Gap in Wages: