The Ogden-Clearfield metro area now ranks No. 9 nationally for its high rate of interracial marriages — and the 3-month-old twins of Josh and Alex Tuatagaloa may be the perfect symbol for that.
"They are not identical," Alex says. "One is brown, and one is white."
Alex, who is white, and Josh, who is Samoan, have been married six years, and they first met at Bonneville High School in Ogden. She says the high ranking for her area doesn't surprise her, because it is relatively diverse and accepting of various races, cultures and ethnicities.
"The only time I've been looked at in a different way wasn't in our area. We were up in Yellowstone," Alex says. "Our families are supportive. A lot of my husband's brothers are interracial couples as well."
In 2015, 27 percent — one of every four — of all marriages in the Ogden-Clearfield metro area were interracial couples, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center based on U.S. Census data.
Nationally, one of every six newlyweds that year (17 percent) were married to someone of a different race or ethnicity. That is more than a fivefold increase from 3 percent in 1967, the year when the Supreme Court ruled in the Loving v. Virginia decision that interracial marriages are legal.
The highest rate in any of the nation's metro areas was 42 percent in Honolulu. The lowest was 3 percent in Jackson, Miss., and Asheville, N.C.
Elsewhere in Utah, the Salt Lake City metro area was at 18 percent — slightly above the national average — and the Provo-Orem metro area was at 14 percent.
Pam Perlich, demographic research director at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, says the 27 percent rate for interracial marriages in Ogden-Clearfield seems high to her.
That metro area, she notes, includes Weber, Davis, Box Elder and Morgan counties. She says the high number may not be surprising for Weber County — which is the most diverse of the group — but is for the others.
Regardless, she says, "Mixed-heritage marriages are certainly increasing and will continue to [do so] for the foreseeable future. This is definitely a national trend that is impacting Utah.
She notes that minorities accounted for 21.9 percent of Weber County's population in the 2010 census, and 36.5 percent of Ogden's — and says that share is increasing. She adds that Hill Air Force Base brings a national labor force to the Ogden-Clearfield area, and the military itself brings more diversity there.
"The large in-migration to Utah, beginning in the 1990s and extending until the onset of the Great Recession, was international in scope," Perlich says. "Those diverse migrants tended to be young and formed households having their kids in Utah."
She adds, "Many of the children of those in-migrants are now young adults and forming households. This accounts for much of the growth in mixed-heritage families today."
Because younger Utah generations tended to grow up with others of more diverse backgrounds, Alex Tuatagaloa says, they "are a lot more open-minded than even our parents were" about mixed-heritage marriage.
Many of those marriages involve Latinos, the largest minority group in Utah. But Perlich says they also involve "Asians, African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and mixed-heritage people."
Perlich says while Utah has been changing demographically, many of its residents may not have noticed.
"Because we tend to work, live and worship with groups that are similar to ourselves, the scope and scale of changes may not be evident to many. These changes represent a generational shift and are more evident to youth than elders."
She adds that the 2020 census will include a new formulation of questions about race that "will allow more of our mixed-heritage people to become visible. I expect that this will provide even more compelling and definitive evidence of our changing and growing racial diversity, both nationally and in Utah."