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Utah women twice as likely as men to get low wages

Published July 31, 2014 11:54 am

Utah • Superior education doesn't guarantee women are paid as well as men, says study.
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Utah women are more than twice as likely as men to work at low-wage jobs paying less than $10.10 per hour — even when they have superior educations, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Women's Law Center.

It says 17.2 percent of Utah women work at low-wage jobs, compared to 7.4 percent of men. That means women are 2.3 times more likely to be in such jobs, slightly higher than the national average (2.1).

The study adds that women make up 44.4 percent of Utah's workforce, but hold 65 percent of its low-wage jobs. Nationally, women are 47.3 percent of the workforce but hold 65.9 percent of low-wage jobs.

"Our startling and disturbing findings belie the conventional wisdom that women are thriving in today's economy and underscore a basic fact: The job and income prospects for women are bleak," said Joan Entmacher, NWLC vice president for family economic security.

"Women are underpaid and overloaded with stress from low incomes, high caregiving responsibilities, and employers and policymakers who still don't get it," she said in a news release, citing her group's analysis of May 2103 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The study found that the only group of women not overrepresented in low-wage jobs — compared to their share of the overall workforce — are those with a bachelor's degree or more.

Just a few groups of men are overrepresented in the low-wage workforce — those without a high school degree, those ages 16 to 24 and Hispanic men. Even in those groups, men are overrepresented less than their female counterparts.

Entmacher said such findings "should compel lawmakers to adopt an agenda that improves economic security for women and their families."

The study proposes raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and providing more nutrition and housing assistance.

It supports expanding affordable child care and curbing scheduling practices that often prevent low-wage earners from holding a second job. It calls for making higher education more affordable.

"It should be a no-brainer," Entmacher said. "Policies that work for women in low-wage jobs will lift up all workers and their families and strengthen the economy for everyone."

ldavidson@sltrib.com

To see the study

OTThe National Women's Law Center study is available at bit.ly/1qLd8Jn