For the first time since early Mormon pioneers quickly outnumbered native Indians, Utah’s population officially is now more than 20 percent minority.
That’s according to U.S. Census Bureau survey data released Thursday on the 2013 population by race, age and sex.
“We’ve crossed a threshold,” said Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah. “We’ve surpassed one of every five Utah persons being a minority.”
Specifically, 588,271 of Utah’s 2.9 million residents were minorities in 2013 — or 20.3 percent, according to estimates. In the 2010 census, 19.4 percent of Utahns were minorities.
“For us in the Latino community, it means we now have a concrete base in demographics, and the concrete base is widened with other minorities,” said Archie Archuleta, board president of the Coalition of La Raza in Utah.
“It means that an all-white Utah is no longer the issue. The issue now becomes how we integrate this new group into the existing system,” he said. “Are we going to be split up into splinter groups? We can’t have that. So the only way to avoid that is to look at what is and what is becoming” to integrate all groups and meet their needs.
The new data show that the largest Utah minority group is Latinos, comprising 13.4 percent of the population. Other major groups include Asians at 3.2 percent; American Indians, 2.2 percent; blacks, 1.9 percent; and Pacific islanders, 1.4 percent.
“Minorities are actually underrepresented in the numbers,” Perlich said. She explained, for example, that people from the Middle East or others who may be considered minorities often list themselves in surveys as “white.”
Also, she said most Latinos dislike racial options offered in surveys and often mark “other race.” The Census Bureau redistributes numbers from the “other” category among all other races, including whites. So that helps to overestimate the number of whites (compared with all minorities), she said.
Immigration is not the main cause for the increase in minorities.
“More of the increase in diversity is coming from births than from in-migration,” Perlich said. “Immigration has really slowed.”
She said big waves of immigration came in the 1990s and 2000s until the Great Recession hit. She said the immigrants “were disproportionately young people in their child-bearing years.” As immigrants have more children, the minority growth rate “tends to be native-born minorities instead of immigrants.”
Meanwhile, the new data show Utah still has the youngest median age in America — but it continues to creep upward.
Utah’s median age is 30.2 years old, estimates say. Maine has the oldest median age at 43.9. The national average is 37.6. While the nation overall continues to get older, seven states actually got younger last year — mainly energy boom states such as North Dakota and Wyoming that are attracting young workers to oil fields.
Utah’s median age is up by a full year since 2010, when it was 29.2, data show.
Among reasons, Perlich said, is that Utah’s fertility rate is declining and “births have been flat or declining in Utah since they peaked in 2008.” Fewer births pushes up the median age.
“A generation ago, [Utah] women were having four or more children. Two generations ago … they were having six per woman,” she said. “In Utah, we are now down to 2.4 children per woman.”
Perlich also said Utahns are living longer, which also pushes up the median age.
She said Utah’s young average age comes from the Mormon culture’s value on larger families, and from influx of immigrants in recent years who tended to be younger and in child-bearing years.
She said some of the minority immigrants have “fertility rates even higher than native-born white women,” which has “helped that median age from increasing even more.”
Perlich said, “The fundamentals of why we are the youngest state will remain in place but the gap will narrow and we’ll trend behind the nation by maybe a generation or so.”
Utah is among only 10 states where the majority of residents are male, at 50.3 percent. Perlich said that’s because of Utah’s young median age.
“Sex ratio favors males over females at birth. There are a lot of biological and evolutionary theories about why that occurs,” she said. But women tend to live longer than men, so at older ages women outnumber them.
“The crossover where women outnumber men in Utah is about the age of 55, and nationally it is about 45. So if you are at a younger place, then you have a higher male to female ratio.”
20.3 • Percent of Utahns who are minorities, including 13.4 percent Latino, 3.2 percent Asian, 2.2 percent American Indian, 1.9 percent black and 1.4 percent Pacific Islander
30.2 • Median age — the lowest in the nation but up from 29.2 in 2010.
50.3 • Percent of Utahns who are male. Utah is one of only 10 states that have male majorities.