Census: Utah getting older, but only slightly

May 19 2011 - 1:58pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- In Utah's second largest county, the sprawling suburbs that start about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City are predominantly home to large families with small children.

Almost one in three people are too young to drive a car in Utah County, which has a population of 516,564, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week. The data includes a county-by-county breakdown of age, household makeup and minority populations.

The number of traditional families in the county, with a married husband and wife raising at least one child under 18 years old, is nearly double the national average at 41 percent. The average household size of 3.57 people is nearly a third higher than the national average and more than half of a person higher than the state average of 3.1.

Those numbers explain why the county has the lowest median age in Utah at 24.6 years, a number that increased only slightly since 2000.

That slight bump in age happened across the state, as the median age went from 27.1 to 29.2 statewide and increased in all 29 counties.

An older median age was expected because the baby boomers are getting older, said Juliette Tennert, the chief economist with the Utah Governor's Office of Planning and Budget. At the same time, Utah is expected to remain the youngest state in the nation when final numbers for every state have been released.

Almost a third of the state's 2.7 million people are under 20 years of age and nearly 20 percent are under the age of 10.

While the percentage of people younger than 20 years old decreased from 2000 figures by about 2 percent, the state's population increased by more than 150,000.

The youthful population is reflected in the average household size of 3.1 people, one of the largest in the country,

That young population is due in large part to the membership of many Utah residents in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which encourages large families. It is also boosted by Hispanics who now make up 13 percent of the state's population and tend to have more children, Tennert said.

The state's Hispanic population is also increasing in almost every county but is especially notable along the urban Wasatch Front around Salt Lake City, which has the largest percentage of Hispanics at more than 17 percent.

Tennert said that is because the most economic opportunity is in those areas, particularly in construction tied to a major redevelopment project in downtown Salt Lake City and an expansion of Interstate 15 in Utah County.

"You're going to see those populations increase where there is economic opportunity," she said.

What remained stable in Utah is the traditional two-parent family, with only negligible increases in households with a single-parent or unmarried partners.


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