USU UWLP Publishes Research Summaries on Poverty, Homelessness, Workforce, and Family Perceptions

By Julene Reese & Melinda Colton | March 5, 2024


woman and child

Researchers from the Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) conducted a statewide study to establish a baseline of public perceptions of the awareness, understanding, and attitudes regarding the challenges of Utah women and girls. The survey, conducted in the fall of 2023, focused on five areas: education, community engagement, safety and security, health and well-being, and the workplace.

The 80-question survey was based on existing literature and survey instruments, guidance from experts, and baseline data needed by leaders of A Bolder Way Forward (BWF). This new initiative invites Utahns to break down the barriers that keep women and girls from thriving. In the coming months, 19 research summaries will be published to provide Utah leaders and residents with insights of Utahns’ current perceptions. To date, 10 research summaries have been released.

In October and November 2023, the UWLP collected data from 3,505 Utahns ages 18 and older. Research summaries were recently released on Poverty and HomelessnessWorkforce Development, and Home and FamilyThe reports are authored by Susan R. Madsen, founding director of the UWLP.

The following are research summary highlights that will be used to set goals and metrics for a BWF.

Poverty and Homelessness – Most Utahns understand that the reasons people experience poverty and homelessness are often beyond their own choices. However, there is hesitancy regarding the remedies that can help reduce poverty and homelessness.

  • 58.6% disagreed that poverty in Utah is a result of people’s choices.
  • 82.3% disagreed at some level that homelessness in Utah is the result of people’s choices.
  • 28.6% believed they could do nothing about poverty and homelessness in their communities, and another 25% were not sure.
  • 91.9% of the combined samples agreed that home is the first step toward positioning children and families for opportunities to thrive and plan for the future.

“Both poverty and homelessness are daily realities for thousands of Utah women and their families,” said Madsen. “Helping Utahns better understand these challenges can help generate positive change. Most Utahns understand that children’s experiences in the home are the most important influence for their future.”

Workforce Development – According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau, women in Utah comprise 44.2% of the state workforce. Because of this, Utah must focus on identifying, creating, and clearing pathways for women into better jobs.

  • Most agreed that many Utahns still need better access to information and support to attain a quality job.
  • 65.8% strongly agreed that they are currently employable within the next 12-24 months.
  • 45.1% of a representative sample (N=650) disagreed that their current circumstances allowed them to maintain successful employment over the next five years.
  • In the same representative sample, 64.2% agreed they could find successful employment in Utah that worked for them and their families.

“Women who have been out of the workforce for many years are not confident they know how to access resources and support to find a quality job,” said Madsen. “We need work to support and help them because it will help the whole family.”

Home and Family – There is little data to help Utahns understand various elements of home and family dynamics, such as relational power, caregiving responsibilities, domestic and emotional labor, communication challenges, differing financial habits, and sexual satisfaction. This survey provides some insight.

  • 79.9% of respondents (men and women) either agreed or strongly agreed that they have an equal voice in decision-making within their homes.
  • Only 26% strongly agreed that domestic labor is shared equitably within their home, with women agreeing less.
  • 56% agreed the caregiving load is shared equitably within their home, with women having lower agreement.
  • 46.4% strongly agreed that their own sexual satisfaction is as equally important as their partner’s satisfaction, with women agreeing slightly more.

“These findings offer important data as we consider ways to help more women thrive in their homes and families,” said Madsen. “Home and family settings are very different for each woman, and supporting her informed choices is critical to having conversations and taking the actions to help her, and her family, thrive.”