Women in 2010; New White House report details areas of progress and potential

Published: Saturday, April 9 2011 11:04 p.m. MDT

"There's a difference between working for a career, and working for work," he said. "If you work for a career, if you're career-oriented, you make sacrifices for the work. But working for a job means eight hours a day, and you don't really make the sacrifices for the job."

He pointed out that women who focus on careers may "sacrifice" having children, or delay childbearing until they're settled, thus lowering the number of children per family and increasing the risk of birth defects and complications.

In Utah, the average age of mothers giving birth for the first time mirrors the national numbers fairly closely, with an average age of 21.7 in 1970 and 24 in 2005, according to the Utah Department of Health. The highest age was 26.3 in 1990.

WOMEN AND CRIME

In 1993, 43 of 1,000 women were victims of non-fatal, violent actions. In 2008, that number dropped to 18 women for every 1,000

The imprisonment rate for females quadrupled between 1985 and 2008, going from 0.17 to 0.68 per 1,000 females

In 1990, 43,940 women were convicted of a felony drug offense in state courts. In 2006, that number increased to 68,020

While most people picture prisons filled with men, women are a growing inmate population, even though they're not committing as many violent crimes as men.

"We know that women's imprisonment rates have been going up a lot quicker than men's have over the last decade, but this doesn't really address what is causing the increase of more crimes," said Matthew Duffin, an assistant professor in UVU's criminal justice department.

His hypothesis, backed by various studies and personal interactions, is the increasing drug use among women.

"It seems to be a pathway for a lot of women to get into situations where they're committing criminal offenses," he said.

Stephen Bahr, a sociologist at BYU who studies prison populations, echoed Duffin's theory.

"Even violent and property crimes have a drug base to them," Bahr said. "We need more resources (for) drug treatment and prevention."

Though the federal report doesn't delve into state specifics, Utahns have struggled and continue to struggle with methamphetamine, heroin and prescription drugs — a category that hits women especially hard because it begins with something legal and prescribed.

Those addictions then drive women to commit crimes — especially property crimes. National data show that 40 percent of female convictions are for property crimes versus only 26 percent for males. For men, 20 percent of convictions are for violent crime, while it's only 11 percent of female convictions.

And while it's inherently problematic that prisons are becoming overcrowded, there's a deeper problem when a woman and mother is incarcerated, Duffin said.

"The thing that worries me the most (is) when you have women going to prison, they are often the sole caregiver of the children," Duffin said. "So children get thrown into social services, foster homes and in many instances, women are having their parental rights terminated. My biggest concern looking forward is the way that that is just destroying children's lives and really tearing up the family and society."

WOMEN AND HEALTH

35 percent of U.S. women are obese, up from 25 percent between 1988-1994

The C-section rate in 2008 was 32 percent, the highest ever in U.S. history

In 2009, 18 percent of women ages 18-64 lacked health insurance

Utahns may pride themselves on low smoking rates and low incidences of lung cancer, but that doesn't make up for the areas where they lag.

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