2020 census: Nearly 1 in 4 Utahns is a minority; Vineyard and South Jordan grow quickly

Nearly 1 in 4 Utahns is a racial or ethnic minority, new census numbers show, up from about 1 in 5 a decade earlier.

It's one takeaway from a trove of national population data released Thursday. The numbers confirm Utah's changing profile in the last decade as its growth outpaced every other state in the nation, with some communities at the top of national rankings.

The figures confirm that 75.4% of Utah's population is white and not Hispanic, compared to 80.4% a decade earlier.

Rep. Angela Romero, who grew up in overwhelmingly white Tooele, has seen the shift play out. Her family was one of several who relocated from northern New Mexico generations earlier for work building tanks for an army depot.

In her college years, the Salt Lake Democrat saw a wave of immigration from Latin America enrich Utah's cultural landscape. And since she took office in 2013, she has observed how Utahns of Asian and mixed heritage have played greater roles in the change.

"Not only are we becoming less white, when you're talking about communities of color, you're talking about a very diverse group of people," said Romero, who represents a swath of Salt Lake City's west side. "They're not monolithic."

Some demographers have said the change reflects a shift to multiracial identities more than a whittling white population. The number of people who identified as belonging to two or more races remains small at 3.7% but the rate more than doubled from 2010.

The Beehive State was home to a total 3.27 million people as of last year, an increase of nearly 508,000 — 18.4% — since 2010. The population boom isn't big enough to yield a new congressional seat, but it will inform changes in representation at the Utah Legislature.

The census also pinpointed where new homes are cropping up and how cities and counties are transforming, with some topping national rankings.

New housing in Vineyard is pictured on Aug. 11, 2021.
New housing in Vineyard is pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Vineyard, once the site of a Geneva Steel mill, has ballooned a whopping 9,000% as it has transformed into subdivisions, swelling from 139 residents to more than 12,500 in the course of a decade. South Jordan is also among the fastest-growing cities of its size in the nation as Utah's urban areas swell and many of its rural southeastern communities shrink.

The numbers are largely in line with estimates from state demographers, said Mallory Bateman, senior research analyst at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

"We're still growing, and our counties are experiencing that differently," Bateman said.

She and her colleagues noted a difference in the release from their predictions and plan to investigate it. They anticipated the data would confirm that Utah County — with gleaming new apartment buildings and developments in its northern side — added more people than neighboring Salt Lake County, but the census numbers indicate that's not the case.

The new numbers also reveal that Utah's score on the census diversity index rose from 33.6% in 2010 to 40.7% in the decade — another indication of a population becoming less white and less homogenous, in line with the national trend. The index measures the probability that two people chosen at random will be from different race and ethnic groups.

Despite the change, the data shows white remains the prevalent race within 28 of 29 Utah counties. The lone exception is San Juan County, where residents who reported themselves as American Indian, non-Hispanic are the most prevalent race, a longtime trait according to the Census Bureau.

Across the state, just over 15% of Utahns are now Hispanic or Latino, making up the second-largest ethnic group, the release reveals.

Additionally, Utah remains young. It has the largest share of total population under age 18, at 29.0%.

Where is growth happening in Utah?

It was already known ahead of Thursday's release that Utah led the nation in terms of population percentage growth. Utah is among a handful of states in the country to have posted at least a 10% increase over the past three decades.

This map shows population percentage change among the 3,138 counties in the U.S. between the 2010 and 2020 censuses. Six of Utah's counties placed in the top 100 fastest-growing counties.
This map shows population percentage change among the 3,138 counties in the U.S. between the 2010 and 2020 censuses. Six of Utah's counties placed in the top 100 fastest-growing counties. | U.S. Census Bureau

Salt Lake County led the charge with an increase of 155,583 residents, up to a total of 1,185,583.

Yet the state's largest county didn't even crack the top 10 in terms of percentage. That's an honor claimed by Wasatch County, the seventh-fastest growing county in the U.S at 47.8%.

In all, 22 of Utah's 29 counties grew over the past decade. Fourteen of those experienced double-digit growth.

Washington (30.5%), Morgan (29.8%), Utah (27.7%) and Tooele (24.9%) counties rounded out the top five behind Wasatch County. Iron County, at 24.1%, was the only other county in the state to top 20%. Each of those counties placed in the top 100 nationally.

This graph shows population percent change from the 2010 Census to the 2020 Census. Wasatch County experienced the largest growth at 47.8%, which is seventh-most in the U.S.
This graph shows population percent change from the 2010 census to the 2020 census. Wasatch County experienced the largest growth at 47.8%, which is seventh-most in the U.S. | U.S. Census Bureau

Seven Utah counties dropped in population since 2010, which didn't happen at all in the previous 10 years, between 2000 and 2010. All seven of those are in the central and eastern parts of the state.

Daggett County experienced the biggest drop in terms of percentage. With a loss of 124 residents, it fell 11.7% from the 2010 count. Emery and Wayne (-10.5% each), Piute (-7.6%), Carbon (-4.6%), Garfield (-1.7%) and San Juan (-1.5%) were the other counties that lost residents over the past decade. Emery County experienced the biggest drop in total population, losing 1,151 residents between 2010 and 2020. It now has 9,825 residents.

Housing ebbs and flows

Wasatch County homebuilding grew 36.7% over the past decade, at 15th in the nation, followed by Utah County (29.8%) and Washington County (29.1%), which placed 25th and 27th in the country, respectively.

Ten counties experienced a decline in housing units. Emery County lost the most, with a 9.4% drop. It was followed by Duchesne (-8.1%), Garfield (-6%), Piute (-5.6%) and San Juan (-4.3%) counties.

The Census Bureau also released data tied to housing unit vacancy rates, which is the percentage total available units — owned or rented — not occupied. Rich County, at 71.4% vacancy, led Utah in that category and placed second in the nation behind just Hinsdale County, Colorado (71.8%).

The sun begins to set on new construction in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Utah: Still home to the most kids but not by as much as last decade

It’s no surprise that Utah again led the nation in terms of the percentage of residents under 18; however, the percentage of children in Utah shrank between 2010 and 2020.

In all, 71% of Utah was 18 or older at the time of the census, while 29% were under 18. Children accounted for 31.5% of Utah’s population in 2010.

Still, the Beehive State bucked a national trend. Utah added 76,538 children from the last census, which is an increase of 8.8% There were over 1 million fewer children reported in the 2020 census from the previous decade, which equates to a 1.4% decrease.

Overall, residents under 18 accounted for 22.1% of American residents. That’s a decrease from 24% in 2010. Of note, the only other state with a percentage of children at 25% or more is Idaho at 25.2%.

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The decline in children is a trend that experts anticipated based on previous estimates. Emily Harris, a demographer for the Gardner Policy Institute, explained last year that people tend to have fewer children during uncertain times, and the tides turned after the Great Recession. People have generally waited to have children and that reduces family sizes.

“We’re seeing that wave of people just having less children over the course of their entire life, and there’s also generational waves that occur just in general,” she said at the time.

It’s also why Utah’s rate isn’t quite as strong as the previous census.

Meanwhile, the census data also shows where in Utah children are most and least prevalent. Morgan County, at 35%, had the highest percentage of residents under 18. It’s followed by Juab (34.2%), Uintah (33.1%), Tooele (33%) and Utah (32.8%) counties. Grand County had the lowest percentage of children at 21.2%.

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