One of the myths that has been popularized is that Utah’s population growth has been driven by outsiders migrating to Utah since they witnessed how wonderful our state was during the 2002 Olympics. This then drives the image of thousands of people moving from all across the country to Park City. However, recently released data by the US Census Department shows how far that is from the truth.
From August 2013 through July 2014, Utah added more than 40,000 people. This was nearly twice the average US growth rate and we were ranked the 8th fastest growing state in the nation. Yet, where did most of those people come from? Their mothers. 90% of Utah’s growth in 2013 was due to more births than deaths. There was only a net migration of 4,000 people to Utah in 2013. If we look at that net migration, international migration (mainly from returning missionaries) was + 5,465. Net Migration domestically (within the U.S.) was actually negative at – 1,235. So, in terms of people within the US coming to or leaving Utah, more people left Utah to go elsewhere than came here to live.
This was similar to the two previous years where population increased by about 40,000 (2011-2012) and 47,000 (2012-2013) persons… with births accounting for about 90% of that growth. Domestic migration was -80 and +5,000 persons in those two years.
That said, this isn’t to say necessarily that the expected 85% growth of Summit County’s population by 2040 won’t happen. It may or may not. However, it’s important we understand how we get to that estimated number. The “how” is important because it should impact policy decisions. If we grow from 36,000 to 67,000 people in Summit County by 2040, that’s an extra 31,000 people. Yet 28,000 of those would be from Utah births. That’s a different economic group than imagining 30,000 people are going to be transplanted from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Old Town.
If we are going to get that growth, it’ll likely be from life-long Utahns deciding they need to escape the air quality of the Salt Lake Valley. It will be your average joe who works an insurance job or is in construction. Of course, if houses appreciate at the long-term average of 3% a year, in 2040 the average house will cost $1.9 million. So, I guess we’ll see how all that works out.
What we do know is that Utah is growing, but it may not be for reasons we have become accustomed to. And that difference may make all the difference in the world when it comes to envisioning what we want our community to be.