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Utah population growth 2021: fertility is falling, but migration is on the rise

The Beehive state is growing, and is doing so rapidly. Even if its fertility rate is declining, its migratory balance is rising sharply.

Key elements for tracking this growth in a sustainable manner include housing affordability, air quality control, energy planning and water policy, among others.

Population estimates from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute released Wednesday during its monthly Online Breakfast Newsmaker indicate that the state has added about 71,936 people since the 2020 census, reaching a estimated total of 3,343,552 Utahns. From July 1, 2020 to July 1 of this year, the population increased by 58,729 people. This annual growth rate of 1.8% is the highest since 2017.

These estimates, created by the Utah Population Committee, were compiled from the most recent decennial census.

“For the state of Utah, we have welcomed an average of 160 new residents per day over the past year,” said Emily Harris, senior demographer at the Gardner Institute and lead author of the report. “The state also saw the second recorded net migration and the smallest natural increase since 1975. Estimates for this year indicate a slight rebound as the Utahns navigate a global pandemic and attempt to find a new normal.”

The main findings of the report include:

  • Natural increase: Since July 1, 2010, Utah has experienced an annual decline in the natural increase in population due to fewer new births, while annual deaths increase. National trends during this same period depict a declining fertility rate strongly impacted by the Great Recession. Utah’s total fertility rate fell from 2.45 in 2010 to below the replacement level (1.99 in 2019), from the country’s highest rate to third.
  • Net migration: Utah’s net migration in 2021 is 34,858, nearly 10,000 more than last year’s estimate. This is the highest net migration since 2005 and the seventh year that net migration has exceeded 20,000. Net migration has contributed 59% of Utah’s population growth in the past year. , compared to 49% the previous year.
  • Regional and County Level Results: Iron County saw the fastest growth at 6.2%, followed by Tooele County (4.1%), Washington County (4.0%) and Utah County (2.9% ). Utah County had the highest natural increase, net migration, and population growth in the state, far outpacing Salt Lake County‘s 0.8% growth.

One-third of the statewide growth between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021 came from residents of Utah County. Salt Lake County contributed 15.9% of the growth and Washington County 12.5% ​​of the growth. Davis, Weber, Cache, Iron and Tooele counties each contributed between 7.7% and 5.1% of the state’s overall growth. Garfield County was the only county to lose population in 2021.

  • Impacts of COVID-19: Although the anticipated impacts of COVID-19 on births were not apparent in the data, the significant increase in deaths has changed the way the state and many counties have grown. Net migration has become the engine of growth statewide, increasing 15% from the previous year and driving growth in three-quarters of counties. While net migration varies each year in Utah, the natural increase (outside of a global pandemic) generally does not vary. Once COVID-19-related deaths decline, the natural increase is expected to stabilize.

“The secret is revealed”

House Speaker Brad Wilson of R-Kaysville said the growth was “remarkable”.

“The secret is out, how great our state is and how many people want to be here for so many different reasons, and there isn’t just one (reason),” he said, adding that growth presented a unique challenge for the state. but also a great opportunity.

“We’ve benefited as a state for a generation or two from having people who really thought about this stuff and how we can really be collaborative, be responsible, but manage our growth in a way. that benefits every Utahn; and we have to go on and work really hard on this, ”Wilson said.

Laura Hanson, state planning coordinator in the Utah Governor‘s Planning and Budget Office, said she felt lucky to be able to reflect on the direction Utah is taking in long term and stressed that growth offers many opportunities for the state.

“We have jobs, we have new creative ideas, more shopping, more restaurants – although (the growth) is a little scary at times, it is bringing some really good things to our state,” Hanson said. “Unfortunately, some surveys have shown, recently, that the majority of Utahns feel that we are growing too quickly. They feel that the character of their community has changed – we are experiencing more traffic congestion, our areas of recreation is overcrowded. But sadly, we really can’t close the doors or slow down this growth. “

Wilson and Hanson have both said that Utah’s current growth slowdown will lead to a struggling economy and an increase in the cost of living, which neither sees as beneficial.

“What we need to do is really connect with the Utahns and better understand what values ​​you think could be threatened by this growth and what policies or investments the state can take to help us navigate the path. growing and sustaining what makes Utah, Utah, ”Hanson said.

Putting systems in place to cope with Utah’s growth

Wilson said the state-level and political-level goal is to make sure the state is in a better place “than we have found.”

“We need to have processes that lead to longer term thinking and broader thinking about where we are headed, so that we make better decisions in the moment,” Wilson said.

The groundwork for some of that long-term thinking was laid in Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s $ 25 billion budget proposal for next year, Hanson said.

“I think people who are focusing on growth issues will be really happy with some of the recommendations that are included there,” she said.

The budget proposes about half a billion dollars in investments in the planning and management of water infrastructure, including the financing of the Great Salt Lake, and incentives for water conservation at all levels, from the agriculture to single-family homes.

In addition, the budget includes $ 46.2 million for investments in active transportation to fight air quality problems.

“These are bicycle facilities, sidewalks and pathways so people don’t have to drive a car if they don’t want to and get people off the road,” Hanson added. “We’ve actually had a drop in emissions over the last few years. It shows that when Utah is focused on one goal… we’re really effective at meeting those goals. So I think the air quality in is one that will continue to be at the center of our concerns. “

Hanson also spoke about energy planning and the state’s energy needs which continue to increase with a growing population and an increased focus on electrification.

“We will need to continue to diversify our energy resources, which means investing in new transmission corridors, the basic infrastructure to support charging (of electric vehicles) along the highways in our state,” she said. . “This is another goal and priority for the governor and in his roadmap he identified updating an energy plan – all these different pieces need to come together and we need to keep working together to meet these challenges. “

While the budget also includes $ 228 million to tackle affordable housing and homelessness, Wilson said the problem is more supply-side and demand-side.

“We need to do a better job of getting more supply to market faster; and we need our municipalities, in particular, to be a little more agile and a little faster in the way they approve projects so that we can solve this problem – this is the only solution to increase the supply on the market, ”Wilson added. “My concern about the affordability of housing is how will our children and grandchildren afford to stay here? “

The full population estimates from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute are available online here.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion