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Demographic and Socioeconomic Study Completed to Prepare Salt Lake County Government for Coming Age Wave

March 8, 2007 — The University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) has just released an extensive demographic and socioeconomic study of Salt Lake County. The purpose of the study-commissioned by the County’s Aging Services Division-is to prepare all aspects of Salt Lake County and its local government entities for the coming age wave by building a better foundation of information for programs and services administered by Salt Lake County and local governments.

Pamela S. Perlich, Ph.D., Senior Research Economist at BEBR, authored the study which is comprised of three volumes:

  1. Salt Lake County’s Distinctive Demographics: Implications for the Aging Population

  2. Salt Lake County: Demographic & Economic Overview

  3. Demographic & Socioeconomic Characteristics of Salt Lake County: Sub-County Analysis

“In most studies, Salt Lake County has been compared to the state of Utah as a whole. This is like comparing California to the west as a whole. My study compares Salt Lake County to the balance of the state (excluding Salt Lake County), and the differences are striking,” said Perlich.

As part of the study, small area projections were produced in a collaborative effort that was coordinated by BEBR. These projections are an effort to reconcile the regional population and employment projections of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the small area projections of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, and the master planning process of Kennecott Land.

The DIGIT Lab within the Geography Department played a central role in the study, working collaboratively with the partners to produce a set of small area (Traffic Analysis Zone or TAZ) projections for the population and employment of Salt Lake County to 2030. Adam Sobek and Scott Bridwell of the DIGIT Lab developed the spatial algorithms and cartographic products.

According to these projections:

  • About 190,000 of the expected 350,000 increase in Salt Lake County’s population from 2010 to 2030 will occur within the West Bench development.

  • This is over half of the projected increase in the county’s population over this period.

  • By 2030, 1 in 4 Salt Lake County residents will live west of 5600 West.

The study’s overall focus is on the major county-level demographic findings:

  • If trends continue, the 60 and older population in Salt Lake County will surpass its school-age population by 2033 and exceed it by over 70,000 by 2050. The oldest age group in the population, those 85 years of age and older, will increase twelve-fold, from just over 8,700 in 2000 to over 103,000 in 2050. This means that nearly half (46.3%) of all Utahns 85 and older will reside in Salt Lake County in 2050.

  • Salt Lake County has older and more diverse populations than the rest of the state. The national post WWII baby boom age wave is much more prominent in the Salt Lake County population, while the early 1980’s Utah baby boom and its echo dominate the age structure elsewhere in the state.

  • Because of the absolute and relative increases in the oldest age groups, all governmental entities in Salt Lake County will face challenges that they have never experienced. While in the past they have confronted a very high youth dependency ratio, for the first time they will have the simultaneous occurrence of high youth and high retirement-age dependency ratios.

“By commissioning this report, we hope to help provide the necessary tools for Salt Lake County so that as our population ages, the programs and services provided by the county and other local governments will reflect their growing needs,” said Shauna O’Neil, director of Aging Services.

Salt Lake County Aging Services is the arm of county government responsible for providing programs and services and advocating for the more than 119,000 seniors, 60 and older, living in Salt Lake County. It is located at 2001 S. State St., Suite S1500, Salt Lake City, UT 84190.

To see the full study, please visit the homepage of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at