Miss Connecticut may have won Sunday's Miss USA competition, but it was Miss Utah who caused an online frenzy after fumbling her answer during the beauty pageant's question and answer period.

Judge NeNe Leakes asked Marissa Powell what it says about society that in 40 per cent of American families with children, women earn less than men but are the primary breadwinners.

Powell, 21, stumbled through her answer.

"I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to …," she said, before pausing and smiling as the audience broke out into encouraging applause. "… figure out how to create jobs right now.

"That is the biggest problem. And, I think, especially the men are seen as the leaders of this and so we need to try to figure out how to create education better so that we can solve this problem. Thank you," she said.

Miss Utah was the third runner-up behind winner Erin Brady and second runner-up Mary Margaret McCord, Miss Alabama.