The Census Bureau’s new annual data snapshot of Utah shows the state enjoys relative prosperity — although its abundance is distributed unevenly — with incomes generally rising and poverty decreasing.
“Utah currently is a place of growth and change. New people are continuing to come. Economic prosperity is expanding. We’re not in a boom, but our growth seems to be sustainable,” says Pam Perlich, director of demographics at the University of Utah‘s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
The prosperity is being noticed and is attracting newcomers, she adds.
“Net in-migration from both international and domestic sources is increasing,” Perlich says. “That’s people voting with their feet that this is a good place to come for economic and educational opportunity.”
The upbeat picture of Utah comes as the Census Bureau released estimates from its annual American Community Survey for 2016, with thousands of charts about a wide variety of social, economic, demographic and housing statistics.
The new estimates say that between 2015 and 2016, the median Utah household income rose from $63,794 to $65,977; median family income (in a household where everyone is related) increased from $72,317 to $74,181; and median per person income grew from $26,142 to $26,993.
Utah’s household income is higher than the national median of $57,617, Perlich said, because its households are bigger here so more people combine incomes — including adult children. Utah’s per-capita income usually is among the nation’s lowest because of its high number of young children, who do not have incomes.
“We’ve been relatively very strong compared to other places” economically, which is shown in part by increasing incomes, Perlich said.
However, “Economic prosperity is unevenly distributed across places, counties and communities,” Perlich said. “Not all communities are faring as well as others.”
For example, estimates show wide swings in median household income for residents of the state’s 10 largest cities.
Four of those cities enjoyed median household incomes well above the statewide median — South Jordan ($95,764), Sandy ($94,025), West Jordan ($71,517) and Layton ($68,892).
Meanwhile, the median household income in Ogden — $44,381 — was less than half that of the more prosperous cities.
The median in Utah’s other large cities was West Valley City, $63,882; Orem, $59,776; Salt Lake City, $56,994; St. George, $52,697; and Provo, $46,883.
As another measure of how prosperity may be uneven, 5.6 percent of Utah households had median incomes of $200,000 or more while 4.2 percent had incomes of $10,000 or less. The single income range with the largest group of Utah households, 21.2 percent, was between $50,000 and $74,999.
Utah was among 30 states where median household income grew between 2015 and 2016.
Utah has one of the nation’s lowest poverty rates: 10.2 percent, seventh lowest among the states. That is down from 11.3 percent a year earlier. The national average is 14 percent. (The 2017 federal poverty level is $12,060 for a single individual; $16,240 for a two-person household; and $20,420 for three.)
Utah ranked even a bit better for the number of children who lived in poverty within the past year: 11.1 percent, tied for third lowest nationally. The national average was 19.5 percent.
The Beehive State also tied for third lowest among the states for the percent of households that receive food stamps: 7.2 percent, compared to a national average of 12.4 percent.
With a healthy economy, Utah is seeing more people move in from out of state than the national average: 3.6 percent of people who moved during the year in Utah came from out of state, compared to a national average of 2.4 percent. That was up from 3.3 percent the previous year.
Perlich said that increasing immigration from other states and from outside the country will continue to bring cultural changes over time. But while the percentage of minorities in the state has grown in recent years, Utah is among the whiter states.
In fact, 78.7 percent of Utah’s population is white and non-Latino, compared to a national average of 61.1 percent. That ranks No. 18 among states.
There’s one big change notable recently on the migration front, said Perlich: most foreign immigrants no longer come from Latin America.
“Latin Americans continue to come, but not as many as Asians, Europeans and Pacific Islanders,” she said. ”You really see the Pacific Islander population growing.”
Utah’s Pacific Islander population grew by 22 percent last year, from 23,628 to 28,870.
Utah’s foreign-born population also increased last year, from 244,467 to 252,333.
The state ranks No. 20 for the percentage of people older than 5 who speak a language other than English at home: 15.3 percent, below the national average of 21.6 percent.
Utah ranks just ahead of California for the percentage of foreign-born residents who are natives of Mexico — Utah at No. 10, compared to No. 11 for California. The percentage in Utah is 39.9 percent, 39.7 percent in California and the national average is 26.5 percent.
Mormon influence on families
Because of the influence of Mormons and their emphasis on families, Utah leads the nation — or is close to it — in many categories related to marriage, births and family size. Following are several of those.
Marriage age • Among the states, Utah has the youngest median age at first marriage for women (24.7 years old) and men (26.3). The national median for women is 27.9, and is 29.9 for men.
Marriage rate • Utah has the highest marriage rates in the nation for men and women.
For men, it was 27.0 marriages in the past year for every 1,000 men. The national average is 18.2. For women, it is was 26.7, compared to a national average of 17.0.
Divorce • Utah had the third-highest rate of divorce in the past year among women 15 and older, 11.1 per 1,000. The national average was 8.2.
Demographers say that Utah’s usual high ranking in this category may be because it starts with more marriages, so it has more divorces. Other data show Utah has a higher-than-average rate of marriages that do not end in divorce.
Births • Utah for years had the nation’s highest fertility rate but recently slipped to No. 2 behind South Dakota.
The total fertility rate — the number of children women would have throughout their childbearing years based on current age-specific fertility rates — is 2,380 per 1,000 Utah women, or 2.38 each. The national average is 1,829. The rate in South Dakota is 2,448.
Median age • All those babies helped Utah to once again have the nation’s lowest median age: 30.7 — significantly younger than the national average of 37.9.
But Utahns are getting older on average over time. The median is up by nearly 10 months since 2012, when the state’s median age was 29.9.
Household size • Again, with all its children, Utah has the largest household size among the states: 3.19 people. The national average is 2.65.
Stay-at-home parents • Utah has the lowest rate among the states of children younger than 6 who have both parents in the labor force but still makes up a majority: 51.5 percent. The national average is 65.5 percent. The highest such rate is 76.3 percent in the District of Columbia.
Other key stats
The new statistics also give a snapshot of how Utah compares in other categories from education to housing and even commuting time.
Education • Utah ranks No. 12 among the states for its high school graduation rate among adults 25 and older: 91.7 percent, compared to a national average of 87.5 percent.
Also, Utah ranks No. 18 for the percentage of such adults who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.6 percent. The national average is 31.3 percent.
Housing • The median housing costs for homes with a mortgage in 2016 was $1,437, up from $1,425 a year earlier. The median for homes that did not have a mortgage was $403, up from $395.
For rental units, median rent was $954, up from $937.
Commute • Here’s a factoid that may, or may not, comfort commuters as they battle traffic every morning and afternoon. The duration of their commute is shorter than in 38 other states.
It averages 21.6 minutes, compared to the national average of 26.6.
The nation’s longest average commute is 33.4 minutes in New York, and its shortest is 16.6 in South Dakota.