Utah’s minority populations are growing rapidly — adding 130K people in seven years

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Helizandro Mojica, 11, helps his mother Teresa Sotelo picking out fruits and vegetables on Wed. June 20, 2018, at Rancho Market at North Temple and 900 West, a chain that started in 2006 and now has 10 stores. The owner says half of their shoppers are Latino, and it caters to other immigrant groups and long-time residents. New Census numbers show a continuing growth of minorities in Utah. Minorities have grown by 132k since the 2010 Census in Utah, and the Latino population has grown by 76k since then.

It’s one sign of how growing minorities are changing Utah. Archie Archuleta, 87, recalls driving as a youth from his hometown of Pocatello, Idaho, to Salt Lake City to shop at what he remembers as the only Latino store for hundreds of miles.

“Now they are everywhere here,” he says. “There are even several chains.”

Eli Madrigal started one of them, Rancho Markets, in 2006 and now has 10 stores. But as a sign of even more change, she says that “only 50 percent of our customers are Latino.” Her stores are busy by also catering to growing numbers of Asian, African and Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees — plus other Utahns.

“We specialize in getting items they like” from around the world, she says about the many groups. “We try to serve the entire neighborhood community,” and that means serving increasingly diverse groups and tastes.

Since the 2010 Census, Utah’s minority population has grown by 129,526 people — the equivalent of adding a city the size of West Valley City, according to new estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

More than one in five Utahns — 21.5 percent to be exact — is now a minority, up by two percentage points since 2010.

And minority groups are also growing faster than whites.

Utah’s white population has grown by 9.4 percent since 2010. Minorities overall have grown by 24 percent.

In part, that’s because the older generations with higher death rates tend to be more white, “and they are being replaced by a more diverse population” in younger generations, says Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

(Courtesy Photo) Pam Perlich.

Growth by minority group

Among Utah minorities, Latinos added the most people since 2010 — 75,948 (the equivalent of a city the size of South Jordan), growing by 21.2 percent. As Utah’s largest minority, they now comprise 14 percent of the state population, or 434,288 people.

Some minorities had faster rates of growth, although they did not add as many people.

Asians grew by 37.7 percent (or 20,677 more people); mixed-heritage people of two or more races grew by 36.6 percent (17,057 people); blacks, 29.5 percent (7,762 people); Pacific islanders, 23.6 percent (5,702 people); and Native Americans, 8.7 percent (2,380 people).

While immigration by Latinos is again a hot political topic, Perlich notes that Utah’s “growth in the Hispanic population — which is significant — is really being driving by natural increase [through births], not migration.”

She said Utah had large waves of Latino immigration in the 1990s, mostly from young people seeking work. The growth among Latinos now is coming from them having children, or their children having children. And Latinos tend to have larger families than Utah whites.

“Even though there is all of this anti-immigration language about the southern border, Hispanics are still a major part of our community. They are having children. So those populations will continue to grow,” she said.

Immigration has slowed

She said data show little-to-no current immigration from Latino countries. “It’s not coming from south of the border as much as rearranging domestically,” such as Latinos moving to Utah from Texas or California.

“It’s just this slow-motion movie that we’ve been watching for the last two decades where the youth are much more diverse than the elders,” and Utah slowly is becoming more diverse overall, Perlich said.

“The changes are ongoing, cumulative and irreversible,” she said. “Utah is becoming more multicultural, multilingual and multiethnic.”

Perlich said she came to Utah in 1986 before its population reached 2 million, and it now has passed 3 million. “Of that last 1 million people, about half the growth came from people who have moved here and their kids. And about half of the people who have moved here have come from international source regions.”

Changing Utah

Archuleta, a longtime Latino activist, said while people may not notice slow changes year-to-year, it is truly obvious when he looks back a half century or more.

(Tribune File Photo) Archie Archuleta, longtime Latino rights activist.

For example he moved to Salt Lake City in 1953 to teach at an elementary school on Salt Lake City’s west side that he said had only a handful of Latinos and a couple of Asians.

“Now all west side schools are 55 percent to 90 percent minority,” he says.

He also remembers that when he arrived, the entire Salt Lake Valley had maybe four Latino restaurants. Some street corners now have more. “The taco has become king. I’ve read that salsa is more popular than mustard and ketchup as a condiment among kids.”

Perlich said that growth by minorities “has played out quite differently in communities across our state.”

For example, she said, “West Valley City is close to becoming a minority-majority city. I would not be surprised to see that in the 2020 Census.”

San Juan County has long been a minority-majority county, with minorities comprising 56 percent of its population. Navajos account for the largest portion.

And Perlich notes that “communities on the west side of Salt Lake City are minority-majority.” Overall, Salt Lake County is now 28.6 percent minority, second only to San Juan County. The least-diverse county in Utah was Morgan, where minorities make up only 4.9 percent of the population.

Data on age

Besides new data on race, the Census Bureau also released new estimates on age.

As has been the case for decades, Utah again has the nation’s youngest median age: 30.9 years. But it is rising slowly over time, including being up from 30.8 in 2016.

The state’s large youth population has long been attributed to the Mormon culture in Utah, which traditionally has large families — although they have been shrinking in recent years. The large families of minority residents also contributes to the young median age.

Utah County had the youngest median age: 24.8 years. The highest median age was in Piute County: 48.3 years. Several rural counties where younger people have been moving away to find work have median ages over 40 — including Piute, Daggett, Garfield, Kane, Wayne and Grand.