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New Studies from the U’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research Illustrate Need for Comprehensive Community Data

Utah Community Data Project

– The loss of the U.S. census long form has contributed to a void of community-level data, which the Utah Community Data Project will begin to fill

– Numbers from BEBR’s Salt Lake City Census 2010 Atlas show that ethnic minorities constituted Salt Lake City’s net population growth between 1990 and 2010

July 17, 2013 — Two new studies by University of Utah analysts at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research illustrate the importance of the work conducted by the recently launched Utah Community Data Project for policy, planning, and community investment.

Case studies from the latest issue of the Utah Economic and Business Review—BEBR’s quarterly publication examining trends and developments in the state’s economy—examine neighborhood-level data through the demographic analysis of Salt Lake City Council districts and increasing applications of community indicators in major federal grants. The studies provide a framework for understanding community data through the lens of neighborhood planning and community partnerships. The dearth of community-level data has led to the development of the Utah Community Data Project as a means to fill this void.

The Utah Community Data Project, or UCDP, was launched this spring to collect, store, analyze and disseminate data critical for understanding the true needs of different populations and communities in the state, while allowing users to explore various community metrics like socio-economic status, educational attainment, health disparities and affordable housing opportunities.

UCDP is a core partner of A Capital City Education, Salt Lake City’s college, career and civic readiness initiative through the partnership among the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, Salt Lake City Council, Salt Lake City School District and the University of Utah. This cross-institutional collaboration received praise from reviewers of the school district’s Race to the Top application, which was selected as one of only 61 finalists nationwide in the district-level grant competition last year. One case study in the Utah Economic and Business Review article showed that the point deductions related to data and program sustainability could have covered the additional points needed to win one of the $10 million–$40 million grant awards.

More than a third of the deducted points on the Race to the Top application were attributed to data-related reasons, including the need for greater context and reasoning behind academic achievement metrics. Many of the data expectations have risen beyond the purview of school districts and require community-level data systems as a supporting resource.

“The increasing need for neighborhood-level data and community indicators in major education grants requires greater cross-institutional collaboration,” said Darius Li, a BEBR research analyst of the findings, published recently in Utah Economic and Business Review, along with a demographic study of Salt Lake City Council districts extrapolated from UCDP’s Salt Lake City Census 2010 Atlas.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker also recognized the need for the kind of data delivered by UCDP as the city works to serve its constituents’ needs.

“The Race to the Top results reflect a need to formalize A Capital City Education across our city’s core institutions in order to strengthen the sustainability of educational and community programs,” Becker said. “With the Utah Community Data Project as a core partner in providing contextualized community-level data, our community will benefit from huge returns on investment in large grants and other funding sources that are contingent upon detailed community indicators.”

The demographic study from the Salt Lake City Census 2010 Atlas included in the Utah Economic and Business Review article revealed some striking numbers that will also prove important for community planning. Dr. Pamela S. Perlich, director of UCDP, noted that Salt Lake City’s population grew over the past two decades after three decades of consecutive decline since 1960.

“In fact, the Salt Lake City population increased by 26,502 from 1990 to 2010, while the minority population increased by 36,268 during this time period,” Perlich said. “In other words, minorities—especially Hispanics—accounted for all of the population increase during this time period, while the non-Hispanic white population continued to decline.”

Delving deeper into the numbers at the City Council district level, Perlich’s team found that two-thirds of Salt Lake City’s Hispanic population—the primary group contributing to the city’s population growth—resides in Council Districts 1 and 2, which roughly comprise  an area widely known as the River District, which is located west of the I-15 corridor.

Having that data from specific neighborhoods is vital to serving the public, notes Salt Lake City Council Chair Kyle LaMalfa, who represents District 2.

“Detailed neighborhood-level data is incredibly critical to the understanding of our constituents and their needs,” LaMalfa said. “Overall, city and county averages are not sufficient when it comes to addressing neighborhood policy and planning. Gathering this information, and following trends over time, will help us demonstrate the success of City efforts.”

With the development of UCDP, community leaders will begin to have the tools necessary to deal with issues affecting neighborhoods and communities across the city.

“The lack of detailed demographic data at the neighborhood level renders many populations invisible,” Perlich said. “Thus, community engagement and neighborhood-level data come hand in hand.”

About BEBR, David Eccles School of Business IT, and the DIGIT Lab

The University of Utah has the expertise and institutional framework in place to produce and distribute these data products and other technical analyses. BEBR has an 80-year history of Utah-centric demographic, housing and economic research; more information can be found at  The Information Technology department at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business combines state-of-the-art hardware and software with forward-thinking staff trained to get the most out of that technology in serving the University community, including students and organizations like the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The DIGIT Lab is one of the premier geospatial and cartographic centers in the nation, with a 25-year history of its own; more information can be found at