Today’s print-edition Salt Lake Tribune (yes, I’m old-fashioned) ran this front-page headline: “Report: Utah is Failing its Women.” Here’s a link to the story.
The story is about a report by the Center for American Progress that ranked Utah 49th out of 50 (take that, Louisiana!) for “inequalities in areas critical to (women’s) well-being.” A box on page 1 of the Tribune shows that Utah women are farther behind men in political leadership positions, business management jobs, and wages, compared to women in other states.
But does this mean that Utah is failing its women?
The Trib just last week ran a story summarizing 2010 Census data, and wrote
Utah also has the lowest percentage of children under age 6 where all parents are working, 51.8 percent compared to a national average of 64.9 percent.
Women in Utah spend, on average, more of their lives on non-market, home production, and this reduces the time they spend acquiring the skills that are valued by the market.
My issue with the Center for American Progress study — and with the Tribune’s coverage of it — is that the study isn’t making an apples to apples comparison.
If you really want to know whether Utah is failing its women, you need to think about two women — one in Utah and one in, say, Illinois — who make the same choices with regard to investments in valued-by-the-labor-market (or valued-by-the-political-“market”) skills. And then see how each do in terms of their ability to compete with men for political leadership, business leadership, and wages.
Surely some of the on-average differences between Utah women and Illinois women are attributable to the fact that Utah women make, on average, different choices. And if we really want to know if Utah is failing its women, we need to account for this in doing our statistics.