Here are 4 takeaways from a study looking at how Utah state employees are paid

Gender and racial pay gaps shrink when factoring in tenure and job descriptions, according to a report from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at his weekly news conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 20, 2021. The Governor's Office of Budget and Management released a study Monday, May 24, 2021, looking at pay equity among state employees.

According to a new study, when just looking at the numbers, there are gender and racial pay gaps among state employees in Utah.

Males earn 21% more than females, while white and non-Hispanic or Latino employees make 17% more than minorities, a 20-page report released Monday from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (GOPB) shows.

But when you factor in other variables — such as age, tenure, where a person works, their title, among others — those gaps shrink, said Nate Talley, chief economist and deputy director of the GOPB. Then, males earn 2.2% more than females, and white employees earn 0.6% than their minority coworkers.

As Utah has continually had one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country, some state lawmakers have called for a study examining whether women working in state government are paid less than men.

Those efforts failed in the Utah Legislature for years, but the topic came up again during last year’s gubernatorial race when all of the candidates said they supported taking a look.

The GOPB has now completed that long-awaited study looking at pay equity in the executive branch as part of Gov. Spencer Cox’s equality and opportunity priorities outlined in his One Utah Roadmap.

“We are pleased to learn that, on average, state compensation policies provide equal pay for equal work,” Cox said in a news release, “but we know there is more to be done.”

“We look forward to tackling problems related to equality of opportunity so that every Utahn has a voice in places where decisions are made,” Cox added.

The study looked at 17,530 employee records across 25 agencies as of March 5.

Here are four takeaways.

Some possible gaps

While there are not gender and racial pay gaps across state government, generally, there are potential disparities in a handful of agencies, even when factoring in those extra variables.

Male employees earn 7.9% than female employees in the Department of Public Safety, while females earn 5.5% more than males in Financial Institutions.

Minorities earn 12.1% less than their white colleagues in the Governor’s Offices of Energy and Economic Development. Meanwhile, minorities working in the governor’s office earn 7.4% more than those who don’t identify as a minority.

Under and overrepresentation

According to the study, women and minorities are underrepresented in higher-paying leadership positions, and they are disproportionately in lower-paying temporary and part-time positions.

Women also make up 89.1% of workers in clerical positions, while employees who do not identify as white, non-Hispanic or Latino are most represented in service maintenance positions (20.8%).

Limitations of the study

Some factors “that are likely important for estimating employee hourly pay” were unavailable and not included in this study, such as educational attainment and work performance.

In the data used, employees were able to identify themselves among seven racial and ethnic categories: American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or other, two or more races, white, and Hispanic or Latino.

Because 85% of employees self-identified as white or non-Hispanic or Latino, analysts based their findings on whether an employee was a minority or a non-minority.

“It is possible that aggregating minority status in this way masks average pay disparities among employees who identified with a particular category of race or ethnicity,” the report states.

How to move forward

The study includes steps that state leaders can take in light of the findings in the report.

For instance, the Department of Human Resource Management and department leaders can look into the possible gender and racial pay gaps identified in different agencies.

The Department of Human Resource Management will also evaluate state recruitment practices, applicant pools, particularly for “key leadership positions” and “the labor pipeline into state employment.”

The study also states, “The enactment of state paid family leave benefits may provide more avenues for women to avoid exiting the labor force upon the birth or adoption of a child. Expanding these benefits to fathers may also increase recruitment and retention efforts.”

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.

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