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Face of Utah is Aging and Becoming More Ethnic

December 16, 2008–Utah’s population is undergoing a dramatic transformation and those changes will only intensify over time. That’s the conclusion of a new study just released by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR). The study Utah’s Demographic Transformation: A View into the Future was produced by BEBR Senior Research Economist Pamela Perlich, who analyzed census data to draw her conclusions.

“Utah is in the midst of an unprecedented economic, demographic, and cultural transformation that has its origins in national and international trends,” says Perlich. “The cumulative impact of these trends is that Utah, along with the rest of the nation, will continue to become much more diverse in many ways, including age, culture, language, nativity, race, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomics.”

The study cites the confluence of four major trends, which continue to dramatically reshape the size and composition of the national and state populations. One of these trends is the arrival of immigrants in record numbers, beginning in the 1980s and continuing for at least another generation. Second, those born in the post-WWII baby boom, which continues to numerically dominate the national age structure, are approaching retirement age. Third, while the fertility of native-born U.S. women has for decades been below replacement level, recent immigrants, who are concentrated in peak childbearing years, often have above-replacement-level fertility. Finally, life expectancy continues to increase, and this will result in many more people living to beyond 85 years of age.

The expected changes caused by these underlying trends already can be seen in Utah’s population. The study shows that Utah, along with the intermountain region, has emerged as a net in-migration (growth) region. As Utah has incorporated these new populations and has become more fully integrated into global markets, its signature demographics remain but have followed national trends. Racial and ethnic minorities are estimated to be 18 percent of the Utah population, 24 percent in Salt Lake County, and 35 percent for the U.S. in 2007. By 2050, these proportions are expected to increase to 30 percent, 41 percent, and 54 percent respectively.

Populations of youth, working-age, and elderly in Utah are all projected to increase, with the greatest rates of increase in the oldest age groups. Baby Boomers increasingly see Utah as a destination for those seeking employment. Meanwhile, life expectancy continues to increase. As a result, within a generation, the 60-and-older population is expected to exceed the school-age population in Utah.

The study concludes that the trends it highlights mean that Utah, along with the rest of the nation, is becoming more culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and racially diverse as well as having a rapidly aging population.

To view the full study, please visit the BEBR Web site at: