In Utah, we like to tout our well-educated workforce. Unfortunately, Utah is losing ground compared to the nation. I first noticed this trend a few decades ago. When I researched what was happening, it became apparent that Utah women were falling behind U.S. women in obtaining college degrees. On the other hand, Utah men continued to maintain their educational edge.
When I investigated further, I discovered that Utah had the largest college-education gap between men and women of any state in the nation. Just what is a bachelor’s-degree-attainment gap? It is merely the percentage point difference between the share of men with at least a bachelor’s degree and the share of women with at least a bachelor’s degree. As you can see from the graphic, in more than one-third of states, women lead men in bachelor’s degree attainment. However, in Utah, men stand head and shoulders above women in earning at least a bachelor’s degree. Utah women are just not keeping up when it comes to higher education. And, it shows in our wages.
All good labor economists know that there is a very, very strong statistical correlation between educational attainment and earnings. Statistically, workers with the most education earn the highest wages; those with the least education earn the lowest wages. (Incidentally, unemployment rates also track educational levels—the higher the education, the lower the unemployment rate.) With this relationship between education and earnings, it’s hardly surprising that the state with the largest male/female college-education gap also shows the third largest male/female wage gap.