Depending on whom Utahns listen to, they could be living in the 11th or sixth fastest-growing state in the nation.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported Utah is expected to be the 11th fastest- growing state in the nation during the period from 1986 to 2010. But Utah Office of Planning officials say the Census Bureau estimates of out-migration in the state are too high and the state should be ranked sixth.While the state and Census Bureau differ by only about 9,000 on their 1990 population projections and 12,000 for year 2000 projections, they differ by 271,000 for 2010. The Census Bureau says Utah will have 2,171,000 people in 2010; the state says there will be 2,442,000 people.

Natalie Gochnour, research analyst with the Office of Planning and Budget, said that the Census Bureau is basing its projections on a recent trend of out-migration from the state. The state bases its projections on the assumption that out-migration will slow.

"They say it is going to follow the negative trend for a large out-migration from Utah. We don't think it is going to be that way," Gochnour said, although she admits projecting population can be inexact.

Whichever estimate about Utah's growth is correct, officials agree that Utah will fail to keep pace with other Western states, including Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.

Projections show that Arizona will be the fastest growing state with a 60.3 percent increase in population by 2010. Nevada and New Mexico will follow with 54.1 and 52 percent, respectively. Other gainers will include Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, California and Texas.

The Census Bureau says that Utah's population is expected to grow by 30.4 percent by 2010. State planners say that the state will experience a 46.7 percent increase.

"The South and West regions are projected to account for nearly 95 percent of the total population growth in the country from 1986 through the year 2010. The South alone will account for 54 percent of the growth," Gochnour said. "The West alone is projected to be the fastest growing, followed by the South and Northeast."

California, Florida and Texas will lead the population gain for the next 20 years. In fact, over half of the total U.S. growth for the next 20 years is expected in these states.

"California - with the biggest numerical gain of 10.3 million people - will remain the most populous state in 2010. Texas - with a numerical gain of 5.6 million people - will pass New York to become the second largest state in the country by 2010. Florida is projected to gain 5.9 million and will rank fourth in total population by 2010 just after New York," Gochnour said.

The Census Bureau expects Utah to rank 35th in population in 2010. Matching state projections with Census Bureau rankings, Utah would rank 33rd in total population.

With the shift in population, more political clout will come to the West, although Utah may not get a fourth congressman until well into the the 21st century while California, Arizona and Texas are likely to add several after the 1990 census.

"The West has long felt the political consequences of being the smallest region in the country and, therefore, having the smallest political representation in the country. These projections indicate that the West, in time, will no longer have this problem," she said