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Utah's inclusion helps fuel economic growth, researcher says

Published May 14, 2013 2:44 pm

Envision • Sociologist says state helps all its economic, racial groups simultaneously.
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The Salt Lake City metro area has sustained better economic growth than most of the country during the past 30 years due, in part, to an unexpected reason: It is one of the few areas that manages to help all its economic and racial groups at the same time.

It was "able to do more inclusive growth" and "lift all boats at the same time" for lower-, middle- and upper-income people and the racial groups within them, Manuel Pastor, a sociologist from the University of Southern California told the regional planning group Envision Utah on Tuesday.

The inclusive growth helped reduce racial and class divisions, poverty and resulting fights that tended to slow growth elsewhere, he said. But Pastor warned that rapid changes in the region's population — with minorities expected to outnumber whites by 2040 — could create challenges in the future.

Pastor said a key is for all groups to work together to develop joint goals and visions of the future, so that everyone can continue to win and improve. "Knowing together is the first step to growing together," he said.

Pastor researches and writes about areas that do well with inclusion and prosperity. He and colleagues are interviewing regional civic and business officials here this week about their achievements, besides talking to Envision Utah about some findings that appear to be keys to success nationally.

One factor helping Utah, he said, may be its youngest-in-the-nation average age — as younger people may be more open to new ways to solve problems.

He said a problem nationally is that minority groups tend to be much younger on average than whites, creating a generational gap on top of cultural gaps in perceiving what problems exist and how to overcome them. He said Arizona has the widest such generational gap between Latinos and whites, while Utah has among the narrowest.

Arizona has had some of the nation's toughest fights on immigration.

"Compare that to what you have been able to do with the Utah Compact, which is the ability to bring business people together, civic leaders and religious leaders and say at least we need a civil conversation around immigration that recognizes that people are human beings," Pastor said.

Pastor praised the work of Envision Utah to bring diverse Utahns together regionally to address long-term challenges and develop goals together. "You are creating a values framework" seeking to find what works here instead of just copying others, he said. "You are creating understanding."