Utah Gender Wage Gap

Does Utah have one of the widest wage gaps in the nation between men and women?

Yes. When it comes to the unadjusted gender wage gap, Utah has the second-highest wage gap in the U.S. with women making $0.69 for every $1 a man makes.[1]

There is no data available on the adjusted gender wage gap for Utah, but it is estimated to be greater than $0.949 for every $1 a man makes.[2]

What are the adjusted or unadjusted gender wage gaps and how are they defined?

Economists have defined the gender wage gap as "a metric that tells us the difference in pay (or wages, or income) between women and men."[3] The calculations for the adjusted gender wage gap account for differences in education, work experience, occupations, etc., while the unadjusted calculations do not.[4]

What is the adjusted age gap used for? Why not use the unadjusted pay gap information?

Controlling for more variables means more precise data, which enables policymakers and business leaders to better identify ways of promoting economic opportunities for women.[5]

In a 2009 report the U.S. Department of Labor stated that the unadjusted pay gap can be "used in misleading ways" and doesn't explain the true reasons behind the gap.[6] The St. Louis Federal Reserve noted that the unadjusted number is a bad indicator to base corrective actions on.[7]

By controlling for age, education, experience, location, job level, company, and function, the adjusted wage gap provides a more accurate assessment of the individual circumstances of women.[8] It also tends to lower the discrepancy to between 2% and 6%.[9] Unadjusted values are less specific and indicate a gap of about 24%.[10]

What kind of controls does the adjusted gap use?

Some controls include age, education, experience, location, job level, company, and function.[11]

For example, controlling for weekly hours worked significantly reduces the national gender pay gap,[12] because on average and across all industries, women in the U.S. work fewer hours a week than men.[13] This is also true in "white collar" occupations such as physicians,[14] lawyers,[15] and MBAs.[16] Even within unionized occupations (which are designed to be equalized), women work less overtime and take more unpaid time off.[17]

What does the gender wage gap have to do with the Church?

Some researchers have argued that religion plays a major role in Utah's gender wage gap, particularly with the Church's focus on family, motherhood, and raising children.[18]

The Church teaches that "mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children" and "fathers . . . are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families."[19]

How do the Church's teachings on family and motherhood influence the gender wage gap?

The Church teaches that "mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children" and "fathers . . . are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families."[20] Latter-day Saints make up the majority of Utah's population.[21] Utah has the highest birth rate[22] and one of the highest fertility rates in the nation.[23]

Having children plays a major role in women's decisions about occupation and work hours,[24] which contributes to the gender wage gap.[25]

So does the Church teach that women shouldn't work?

No. The Church teaches that "fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners" and that "circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation," including working.[26]

What outcomes do Church teachings have on women in the workplace?

By encouraging women to have children and be mothers, the Church could put Latter-day Saint women at a disadvantage in the workplace, as raising children directly impacts career progression.[27] This may contribute to existing discrimination in the workplace.[28]

However, according to research from Pew, American parents find almost twice as much meaning from child-care experiences than in employment.[29] And for women, over half of working moms reported they would rather stay home, and over half of stay-at-home moms reported that their desire to raise children is a "major reason" for not working.[30]

Are there any official statements or policies from the Church about fair wages for women?

No.

Has Church leadership taken any public positions on gender equality?

Yes.[31] For example, Utah is where the first vote by a woman was cast in the United States.[32] The suffrage movement in Utah was led by people like general Relief Society president Eliza R. Snow[33] and supported by the Church-owned Deseret Evening News.[34]

However, the Church opposed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978, worrying that it would "nullify many accumulated benefits to women in present statutes."[35] In 2019, a spokesman for the Church reportedly reconfirmed the original statement.[36]

What are some proposed solutions to the gender wage gap problem in Utah?

In 2020, the Utah Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommended stronger enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, greater encouragement of women to enter STEM fields, and the passing of new legislation.[37][38]

The Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah State University made similar recommendations,[39] and also called for "a comprehensive, statewide study of the causes and effects of Utah's gender pay gap."[40][41]

The Facts

  • The unadjusted gender wage gap in Utah is about 30% which is one of the highest in the U.S.

  • The adjusted gender wage gap in Utah is about 5%.

  • The U.S. Department of Labor advised against using the unadjusted gender wage gap for consideration of public policy because it can be misleading.

  • The Church does not teach that women should not work.

  • The Church encourages traditional gender roles, including women having children.

  • Women that have children tend to experience disruption in their careers that can affect their wages.

  • The Church has not made any statements related to the gender wage gap.

Our Take

Gender discrimination is a genuine problem in the workforce, and the wage gap is a bigger national discussion than we can have here. But what about how Church teachings influence the wage gap? Is there pressure in the Church for women to get married and be stay-at-home moms? Does that disadvantage women?

Utah does have a wage gap between men and women. The unadjusted wage gap in Utah is about 24%, while the adjusted gap (accounting for education, work experience, occupations, etc.) falls between 2% and 6%. Several organizations, including the U.S. Department of Labor and the St. Louis Federal Reserve, have encouraged use of the adjusted wage gap data in policy decisions because they provide a more accurate assessment of the individual circumstances of women.

The Church encourages getting married and having families, and raising children is a factor that affects career and wage progression. The Church also acknowledges that each family’s circumstances are different and allows for “individual adaptation,” which includes women working.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must oppose harmful discrimination wherever it is found. While we do that, we can recognize that every family looks different and respect the choices that others make about work and home.

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