Utah Women and Leadership Project releases status snapshots for Pacific Islander, Asian women

May 11, 2022, 7:21 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah becomes more diverse, researchers with the Utah Women and Leadership Project believe capturing the experiences of Pacific Islander and Asian women will help the state better address their needs.

“In each of our reports, we end up just having a little paragraph about women of color,” said Dr. Susan R. Madsen, director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah State University.

Madsen is digging deeper in a first-of-its-kind study, focusing on the nearly 14,000 Pacific Islander women who call Utah home.

When it comes to their health, 17% of Pacific Islander women in Utah don’t have health insurance, 25% forgo medical care because of cost and 27% have no medical doctor.

These numbers are high compared to other Utah women.

“Sometimes what happens culturally is we go to the doctors when we’re sick versus preventative care,” said Lisa Satini with the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition.

However, Pacific Islander women are less likely to report being diagnosed with mental health problems (20.5% vs. 23.6% of all Utah women) or depression (14.5% vs. 29.7% of all Utah women).

In education, researchers found that Pacific Islander women are more likely to end education with a high school diploma – 32.6%, which is more than Utah women in general (23.8%), and 18% are less likely to get their bachelor’s degree compared to 29% of all Utah women.

“That relates to the occupations they go into, the pay in general,” Madsen said.

Madsen also examined Asian women in Utah, who represent 1.2% of the state’s population.

“In terms of health and basic needs, education and income,” she said. “We’re seeing Asian women as a whole doing slightly better.”

The study found that 91.7% of Asian women are more likely to have health insurance than Utah women in general (88.8%) and they are more likely to receive preventative care and are less likely to experience poor health outcomes.

They are also less likely to report poor mental health (17.9% vs. 23.6%) or a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (11.8% vs. 29.7%).

Utah Asian women have much higher rates of attaining a bachelor’s degree –44.3% vs. 29% of all Utah women. The five-year average completion rate of college-enrolled Asian women in Utah is 31.2%, compared to Utah women at 27.9%.

Utahn celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with photoshoot project

With over 20 ethnicities, Madsen acknowledged her study doesn’t do justice in lumping all groups together, but it gets them a little bit further.

“Our biggest questions are what now? What are we doing with that data?” asked Satini.

In the coming weeks, Madsen will release studies on Black, Hispanic and Latino and Native American women.

Here are the links to the full studies on Pacific Islander and Asian women.

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Utah Women and Leadership Project releases status snapshots for Pacific Islander, Asian women