The Status of Utah Pacific Islander Women

In 2021, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute reported that “Utah ranks as the 34th most racially and ethnically diverse state in the nation, with 22% of the state identifying as other than non-Hispanic White.” As the state continues to become more diverse, it is critical that the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) conducts and reports research focused on women of color. As the UWLP focuses on strengthening the impact of all Utah girls and women, research that increases our understanding of the status and experiences of girls and women within all social and identity groups—including race and ethnicity—is crucial. This research snapshot is the first 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 Native American women. The data presented here include information from, among other sources, the 5-year US 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. 

Demographics 

Available demographic data on Pacific Islander Utah women include population size, household size, family household type, marital status, and religious affiliation. 

  • Population Size: The Utah Pacific Islander population has been relatively stable over time, comprising around 1.0% of the Utah population. 
  • Household Size: The average household size of Pacific Islander women in Utah is 4.1 people, which is larger than the average of 3.4 for Pacific Islander women across the US: 3.0 for Utah women and 2.5 for women in the US. 
  • Family Household Type: Almost three quarters (73.1%) of Utah Pacific Islander households consist of married couple families (compared to 81.7% of all Utah families and 65.6% of US Pacific Islanders). 
  • Marital Status: Just over 49.0% of Pacific Islander women in Utah are married, which is similar to all US women (48.7%), but lower than all Utah women (56.9%). 

Health 

Findings from a recent survey of Utah’s Pacific Islander population indicate that the disparate health rates of this population may be underestimated.  

  • Access to Healthcare: Pacific Islander women in Utah are more likely to lack health insurance (17.5%) than Utah women in general (11.2%). 
  • Physical Health: Utah Pacific Islander women are less likely to receive most preventative care and more likely to experience poor health outcomes compared to all Utah women. 
  • Reproductive Health and Wellbeing: The birth rate per 1,000 Pacific Islander women in Utah is 18.2, which is higher than the rate of 10.6 for Utah women generally. Utah Pacific Islander women are less likely to receive prenatal care in their first trimester (77.5%) and have a far greater rate of gestational diabetes during pregnancy (11.0%) than all Utah women (88.7% and 6.8%, respectively). 
  • Mental Health: According to the data, Utah Pacific Islander women fare better in mental health outcomes than Utah women generally. 

Education, Income, and Employment 

  • Education: According to the 5-Year American Community Survey Integrated Public Use Microdata of the US Census Bureau, Pacific Islander women in Utah end their education with a high school diploma (32.6%) more than Utah women generally (23.8%), and they have lower rates of attaining bachelor’s degrees (18.1% vs. 29.0% of all Utah women). 
  • Income: The median personal income for Utah Pacific Islander women ($20,670) is on par with the median income for Utah women generally ($19,245), which contrasts national trends with US women having a higher median income ($23,106) than US Pacific Islander women ($20,447).  
  • Employment: Utah Pacific Islander women are represented at different rates across occupational settings as well as are employed in industries at different rates than Utah women generally.  
  • Business Ownership:The Women’s Business Center of Utah reports that, of their majority of women clients (95%), only 2% are Pacific Islander. 

Conclusion 

As noted in a seminal report—Diversity in Utah: Race, Ethnicity, and Sex—published by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, demographic, economic, education, and health data by race, ethnicity, and sex are extremely complex. Yet, we agree with these report authors that data can be used as a “source of light” instead of a source of division that impedes progress.  

The data in this report provide a snapshot of the existing disparities in several areas specifically related to Utah Pacific Islander women. It also provides a starting point for meaningful, targeted change. Although we were able to find existing data regarding the general demographics, health, wellbeing, education, and income and employment of Utah Pacific Islander women, usable information was not available in many of the categories we hoped to collect, such as housing, transportation, domestic violence, unpaid labor, caregiver status, childcare accessibility, civic engagement, and food insecurity. This demonstrates both a data gap and an opportunity for Utah universities, government, nonprofit, and other entities to do more to collaborate, gather, and report quality data that can help government, education, business, and nonprofit leaders and decision markers understand more deeply the circumstances and needs of Utah’s Pacific Islander women. More generally, gender, race, and ethnicity, along with other important demographic data, can help Utahns create a more inclusive, accessible, and equitable culture for all.  

Overall, Utahns can increase equality within the state by utilizing data to recognize the impact of gender and race in our everyday lives. As we provide greater access and opportunity to all residents, the state can use these data to better utilize the talents, ideas, and resources that Pacific Islander women have to offer the state, employers, and Utah families. It continues to be important to remember that when we strengthen the impact of all Utah residents, including Pacific Islander women, we can strengthen Utah’s workplaces, educational institutions, communities, and the state as a whole. 

To learn more about the status of Utah Pacific Islander women, read the full snapshot.

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