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Utah was fastest-growing state in last decade, according to census preview

Also, state ranked No. 4 for growth during the past year.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) New home construction in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. New Census Bureau estimates — which are essentially a preview of the actual 2020 census — say Utah was the fastest-growing state over the past decade.

In what may be essentially a sneak peek at 2020 census counts, Utah appears to be the fastest-growing state over the past decade.

Utah’s population, as of July 1, was 3,249,879, according to estimates released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau to help show possible undercounts in the yet-to-be-released actual census. It uses birth and death records, and data from such agencies as Social Security, Medicare and the Internal Revenue Service to show migration and other data.

The estimates say Utah’s population increased by 485,994 people (2.5 times the size of Salt Lake City) since 2010. That is up by 17.6%, far above the average growth rate nationally of 6.7%

Utah’s population increased since 2019 by 46,496 people (about the size of Riverton), up 1.5%. In that year, the only states with faster growth in that year were Idaho (2.1%); Arizona (1.8%); and New Hampshire (1.5%).

The Census Bureau always prepares such estimates as a check on the census count, but rarely releases them publicly — especially before the census itself, and so near to the Dec. 31 deadline when initial actual census counts are normally supposed to be released.

But 2020 is an unusual year.

Preparation of census counts were delayed in part because of COVID-19 stalling door-to-door, follow-up with people who did not respond by internet or mail.

Also, release of counts has been more recently entangled in President Donald Trump’s legal push to exclude undocumented immigrants from the portion of the count that is used to reallocate members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College — called reapportionment. The Constitution requires the census to include the “whole number of persons in each state.”

In short, it is uncertain when the first real census counts may come. Meanwhile, the new data gives estimates. And once counts are released, those estimates could quickly show any likely big undercounts or how many undocumented immigrants and others were left out, if that is allowed by courts.

Pam Perlich, senior demographer at the University of Utah’s Kem Gardner Institute, noted that the new estimates do not say how much of growth nationally in the past year comes from immigration, and how much comes from “natural increase” of births minus deaths — and gives no breakdown by such things as age and race.

“The 2020 census results should provide more precise data to understand population growth and change in Utah and the nation” when it eventually comes, she said.

The Census Bureau on Tuesday also released estimates about the voting-age population in each state, or essentially everyone older than age 18.

It said Utah’s voting-age population is 2,320,603 — or 71.4% of the total population, the lowest such ratio of any state.

“Because Utah has the youngest median age” among the states, Perlich said, “it also has the largest share of youth, those younger than 18.”

The new estimates say the total population of the United State is 329,484,123, up 6.7% over the decade.

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