Census: Utah’s Latino population still booms — but other minorities grow even faster

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) In this June 20, 2018, file photo, Isela Martinez picks out limes 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, many growing at an even faster clip than Latinos.

Dick Harwood, chief operating officer of Rancho Markets, sees increasingly diverse shoppers at his stores created for Latinos: immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Pacific and the Middle East.

So he’s not surprised that new census data shows that while Utah’s Latino population is still booming, other minorities are growing even faster. Harwood notes that just half his customers now are Latino. A fifth are white. But 30% come from the other fast-growing minorities.

“Our produce department draws a lot of the Asians and Pacific people to our stores because we have what they eat at home,” Harwood says, adding that his stores seek special foods from immigrants’ homelands if enough people request it.

Serving the fast-growing minorities helped the grocery chain grow, on average opening a store a year during the past decade.

“That’s why we cater to people other than Latinos,” he says.

New estimates released Thursday by the Census Bureau show that Utah’s Hispanic population grew by 25.6% between 2010 and 2018. That’s more than twice as fast as the 10.8% growth in Utah’s non-Hispanic white population.

But other minorities grew even faster.

The Asian population grew by 48.5%; people who are “two or more races” grew 42.5%; blacks by 37.9%; and Pacific Islanders grew by 27.5%. American Indians had a slower 9.9% increase.

With that, 22% of all Utahns now are minorities — one of every five. But among children under 18, that number is 26.5%.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

While political debates surrounding immigration often purport that Latinos are Utah’s fastest-growing minority and that most undocumented immigrants arriving here are Mexican, “At this point, that is an obsolete point of view,” says Pam Perlich, senior demographer at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

“It may have been the case in the 1990s,” she says. Now, census data shows that most recent international immigrants coming to Utah are from Asia. “So we’re talking India, China and Southeast Asia.”

A new study by the Pew Research Center says that for the first time nationally, Mexico does not provide a majority of new undocumented immigrants — and most come from other countries. Also, most new undocumented immigrants do not illegally cross borders but overstay visas.

Perlich says Utah is attracting people from more diverse regions for jobs in the tech, finance and higher education sectors.

“Corporations and universities are recruiting in an international labor market — and that outside world is more diverse than Utah. So as we bring people in from outside of Utah, they tend to reflect the demographics outside the state and bring more diversity.”

Latinos continue to boom, she says, not so much because of new immigration but because past immigrants here continue to have more children — and their children have children.

Perlich notes that helped create a situation in which one of every three youths in Utah are now minorities — compared with only about one of every eight senior citizens. “The youth are more diverse than the elders, and the elders are approaching mortality years. The youth are approaching fertility years,” which will fuel increasing diversity.

Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune A diverse class of kindergartners at Midvale Elementary School play a spirited word matching game, April 24. The title 1 school in Salt Lake County caters to a growing population of immigrants. Minority children now make up more than a third of Utah's population of residents under the age of 18.

Also, while 22% of Utah’s population are minorities, they generated 39% of the growth this decade — including 44% of the growth last year.

With all that, trends toward more diversity are “so well established at this point that it’s really not reversible,” Perlich says.

By raw numbers, 2.47 million Utahns now are whites and 695,080 are minorities, according to new census estimates. Actually, many of the “whites” may be considered minorities by some, including new immigrants from such places as the Middle East.

Among the minority groups listed in the census, 450,218 are Hispanic; 81,356 are Asians; 66,465 are “two or more races;” 36,307 are blacks; 30,824 are Pacific Islanders; and 29,910 are American Indians.

Among the state’s counties, only San Juan — home to a big swath of the Navajo Nation — is “majority minority” where minorities outnumber whites.

Salt Lake and Weber counties are the only others where the share of minorities is higher than the state average of 22%. It is 29.3% in Salt Lake County (where West Valley City was recently deemed majority minority), and 24.3% in Weber County. Only one county in Utah, small rural Piute, lost minorities, with a 2% decline this decade.

The census on Thursday also released data about age. As it has for years, Utah continues to have the youngest median age in the nation: 31 years old. Two of its counties are also among the Top 10 youngest in the nation: Utah County was No. 6 at 24.9 years and Cache County was No. 8 at 25.3 years. Both are home to major universities.

Still, Utah’s population is getting older over time. Its median age in 2010 was 29.2.

“In part, it’s because people are having fewer children,” Perlich says. Also, “People are moving here from the outside world,” and demographically they tend to have fewer children and have older average ages.