New report highlights disparities of Utah Black women

May 18, 2022, 7:35 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:33 pm

ST. GEORGE, Utah- A greater portion of Utah Black women have jobs compared to other women in the state, but their wages are lower, and they face much higher poverty rates.

Those are just some of the disparities highlighted in a new report from Utah State University’s Utah Women & Leadership Project. “The Status of Utah Black Women” is one of a series of research reports that uses data to spotlight the experiences of Utah women and girls of color.

“I moved here with my husband to southern Utah to a place I had never heard of,” said Tasha Toy.

Toy is the assistant vice president for campus diversity and the senior equity and inclusion officer at the recently renamed Utah Tech University. She’s also a Black woman who has made Utah home for the last four years.

“It has been a pleasant experience. I’ve met a lot of great people. And the job I have really keeps me on my toes,” she said. “It also has provided an opportunity for growth to happen. I’m part of the new change Utah is starting to see.”

Toy is one of three authors of “The Status of Utah Black Women,” that uses data from Utah’s System of Higher Education, Department of Corrections and Department of Health to paint a picture of their experiences in areas like healthcare, employment, education, and income.

According to the report, which also used U.S. Census data, there are 16,072 Black women in Utah, just a half percent of the state’s population.

The report shows that 20 percent of Black women don’t have health insurance compared to about 11 percent of Utah women. More black women get preventative healthcare, but they are more likely to see poor health outcomes.

They have a higher labor force participation rate compared to Utah women, but their median personal income is much lower, and they “face concerningly higher rates of poverty (33.6% vs. 10.8% of all Utah women), which is also higher than national trends (24.5% for US Black women vs. 14.7% for all US women).”

Black women in Utah “end their education with a high school diploma (26.0%) slightly more often than Utah women (23.8%).” But they “have much lower rates of attaining a bachelor’s degree (19.0% vs. 29.0% of all Utah women).”

“It might show a lot of gaps and a lot of troubling information, but to use it as a promising stepping stone to opportunities to address change in our state,” Toy said.

“We need to do our best to make sure data is tracked at this level. And if it’s not, do all the efforts we can to start collecting this data and track it,” said Marin Christensen, another report author.

Christensen is the associate director of USU’s Utah Women & Leadership Project, the group behind this report and others that focus on Utah Asian women and Utah Pacific Islander women.

She acknowledged, “it’s not one size fits all. Everyone has much different experiences.” And they “can’t tell the whole story of what’s going on” in these reports. They couldn’t find data in areas like housing, transportation, domestic violence, childcare accessibility, civic engagement, and food insecurity.

But Christensen said they still help accomplish UWLP’s mission is “to strengthen the impact of all Utah women and girls.”

“And when we’re able to get at these much-needed rates—even if we’re missing the data that we do—it gives us that much more information to target our efforts where we need to.”

Toy hopes Utahns will ask, “How are you making a difference within your community within these groups?”

She said they’re giving this information to local, state, and industry leaders and hope they will use it to keep the conversation going and to help change the landscape for women of color.

“Look at it as an opportunity. Not as a place or space of doom and gloom, and everything is bad. It’s a lot of hope in this document.”

UWLP is working on collecting data to write up two other reports, one that focuses on Utah Hispanic women and Utah Native American women.

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New report highlights disparities of Utah Black women