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Women & Leadership Project releases final study in series on Utah women of color

By Genelle Pugmire - | Jul 7, 2022

Courtesy photo

Susan Madsen, director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

In its last part in a series focused on Utah’s women of color, the Utah Women & Leadership Project presented its research Wednesday on the status of American Indians.

The complete snapshot of this study can be found at https://www.usu.edu/uwlp/files/snapshot/41.pdf.

The research uses the U.S. census description for “American Indian or Alaska Native,” which is “a person having origins in any of North or South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliations or community attachment,” according to the research synopsis.

Keeping this description central to the snapshot, “American Indian” was used as an abbreviation for the document. Highlights of the findings include:

  • Utah American Indian women are more likely to be in married-couple families and have lower divorce rates, compared to American Indian women nationally.
  • Utah American Indian women receive preventative care on par with all Utah women, but are more likely to forego medical care due to cost. Compared to all Utah women, Utah American Indian women have higher rates of obesity and heart disease, but lower rates of breast and cervical cancer.
  • Utah American Indian women are more likely to report barriers to basic needs — 27.3% report no access to water and 23.8% report no access to internet at home (compared to 10.6% of all Utah women reporting no water and 5.1% reporting no internet).
  • Utah American Indian women are less likely to attain a Bachelor’s degree compared to all Utah women (11.2% vs. 29%) and are more likely to end their education without a high school diploma (17.6% vs. 7.1%).
  • Utah American Indian women have slightly lower labor force participation rates compared to all Utah women (58.9% vs. 61.7%). They have lower income, higher poverty and unemployment rates and a larger gender wage gap compared to all Utah women.

This research snapshot is the fifth in a series of five that detail the available data on Utah women of each Census race/ ethnic category: Pacific Islander, Asian, Black, Hispanic/ Latino and American Indian/Alaskan Native women.

Information for the project was gleaned from a number of sources, including the 5-year U.S. Census Microdata, the Utah System of Higher Education, the Utah Department of Corrections, and a number of Utah Department of Health offices including Health Disparities, Vital Records and Statistics and Public Health Assessment.

“We sought data across broad categories that impact Utah women, such as civic engagement, childcare access, domestic violence, utility connectivity, caregiver status, unpaid care work, housing, transportation, access to healthy food, and food insecurity,” said Susan Madsen, director of UWLP.

UWLP researchers collected data in these five categories: general demographics, health, basic needs, education and income and employment.

Below are some of the category findings:

Population Size: The Utah American Indian population has been relatively stable over time, comprising around 1% of the Utah population. In 2010, 27,213 Utahns were American Indians, while by 2020 the number had increased to 31,648. Population demographers project a slight decrease of population share by 2065, at which point American Indians are expected to be 0.9% of Utah’s population (at 51,740 people). Currently, 17,851 American Indian women reside in Utah, which represents 0.58% of the general Utah population and is larger than their 0.43% share of the general U.S. population.

Household Size: The average household size of American Indian women in Utah is 3.3 people, which is larger than the average of 2.8 for American Indian women across the U.S., 3 for Utah women, and 2.5 for women in the U.S.

Family Household Type: Utah American Indian households consist of 56% married-couple families (compared to 81.7% of all Utah families and 36.2% of U.S. American Indians). Of all Utah American Indian households, 30.8% are led by women with no spouse present, compared to 13.2% of Utah American Indian households with male householders with no spouse present.

Marital Status: The share of American Indian women in Utah who are married (37.8%) is lower than shares for all U.S. women (48.7%) and all Utah women (56.9%). Almost 45.7% have never been married compared to 27.3% for all Utah women and 30.4% for all US women.

According to the research, Utah American Indian women have higher separation rates compared to all Utah women (2.5% vs. 1.6%), but have lower rates of widowhood (4.7% vs. 5.6%). Additionally, divorce rates for American Indian women in Utah are lower than for all Utah women (9.3% vs. 10.2%).

Access to Healthcare: American Indian women in Utah are more likely to lack health insurance (13.3%) than Utah women in general (11.2%). Further, they face greater barriers to medical care, with 29.5% of American Indian women reporting that they forgo medical care due to cost (vs. 13.8% of Utah women generally) and having no personal doctor (24.5% for Utah American Indian women vs. 20.2% for Utah women).

Physical Health: Utah American Indian women are more likely to receive most preventative care, and less likely to experience poor health outcomes, compared to all Utah women.

For example, Utah American Indian women are more likely to receive pap smears (67.2% vs. 60.3% of all Utah women) and less likely to receive a diagnosis of cervical cancer (4.7% vs. 5.2% of all Utah women), according to the study.

Further, Utah American Indian women receive more mammograms (64.6%) than all Utah women (63.2%) and are much less likely to be diagnosed with, and die from, breast cancer.

The research group also delved into the education and business sectors, employment rates, payroll, etc. in the full research. The conclusion from the study and the previous four studies is that Utah could do better in servicing women of color.

“It continues to be important to remember that when we strengthen the impact of all Utah residents, including American Indian women, we can strengthen Utah’s workplaces, educational institutions, communities, and the state as a whole,” Madsen and team conclude.

Madsen was assisted by Tasha Toy and Marin Christensen in the research for this portion of the series.

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