The financial news and opinion company 24/7 Wall St. recently released a study of the one hundred largest metropolitan areas comparing the median wages of men and women, and listing the ten best and ten worst for women’s earnings. The figures come from U.S. Census data. On a national basis, working women make on average, about 80% of what men do, but the variance can be considerable from state to state or city to city.
Not surprisingly to me, four of the five areas where women make the least compared to men were in “Mormon country” – three in Utah, and one in Idaho. The “worst” was the Provo area, where women on average make only 64% of what men earn. The single non-Mormon metro area in the bottom five was Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The fact that the five areas with the greatest discrepancy are all located in areas dominated by highly patriarchal religions seems to be more than coincidence.
Now, the first thought that some will doubtless suggest is that fewer women associated with patriarchal religions work, but the survey was of working women, not all women. In addition, figures show that the percentage of married women who work in Utah is right around the national average. The other factor is that in the Provo area, there is a greater discrepancy between the higher education levels of men and women. It’s also the “most” LDS area in Utah, with the lowest percentage of women with college degrees, which tends to suggest that perhaps the LDS faith tends to value education in women less than in men, a fact I noted in an earlier blog.
Now, I’ve heard and seen all the LDs pronouncements on education, but it’s fairly clear that education comes second to faith. Why else would the Mormon Church push the age for young members lower so that a university education essentially competes with going on a mission? And going on a mission isn’t exactly cheap. Also, why does the LDS faith/culture, especially in Utah, press for those returned missionaries to get married within a year of returning from their mission – when most of them have three or four years left to finish college, if they attend college at all. In addition, there’s tremendous pressure on young married couples to have children immediately.
The result of this faith/cultural pressure is that, in practice, education for women not only takes second place to the education for men, but is effectively prioritized behind faith and the need to have children –lots of them –and the statistics bear this out. And those statistics explain yet another reason why women in Utah are underpaid.
I understand that, for many people, faith and male priorities come first. Just don’t tell me that education is a priority, especially when Utah also has the lowest rate of spending for primary and secondary education in the United States and the highest birth rate.