By: Dr. Pamela Perlich, Ph.D.
The DemographyUTAH team estimates that the Utah population has reached 3,000,000 as of October 2015. As with all estimates, there is an element of uncertainty. Migration is always the wild card. If migration has been more rapid than estimated, we may have achieved this milestone in August. Conversely, if migration is less than estimated, the three million mark may not be reached until January of 2016.
Regardless of the exact date, Utah has been on an amazing population growth path that few could have imagined 65 years ago. Rewind to 1950 and Utah was, along with most intermountain states, a collection of geographically isolated communities with state populations of about half a million people (Colorado, on the other side of the divide with its eastward economic orientation is the exception). These were classic rural western economies, dependent upon agriculture, extractive industries, and federal military installations. Who could have imagined, that in the mere span of 65 years, Arizona would exceed 6 million, Colorado would reach 5 million, Utah would hit 3 million, while, Wyoming would just surpass half a million.
The story of Utah’s population growth is intertwined with its story of economic development, diversification, and expansion. As the region has become more interconnected with the outside world through markets, transportation and technology, it has become a place of economic and educational opportunity. Since 1990, Utah has emerged as a net in-migration area, with consistently more people moving in than out. This is new for the state, which has historically had been heavily impacted by the booms and busts in dominant industries.
Utah has become a globally connected place with people coming to Utah from all over the world for economic and educational opportunity. These global market connections have expanded through extensive networks of financial, product, and labor markets. The state’s businesses and universities are in a global competition for talent and bring people from all over the world. Utah also resettles refugees, welcoming new residents from untenable life circumstances. And the state is headquarters to a global religion that sends a “sales force” of impressive young people to international destinations delivering a message of optimism and hope from a place called Utah. This, too, brings new people to our state.
Utah is in the midst of an unprecedented economic, demographic, and cultural transformation. This milestone of 3 million residents provides additional evidence of the emergence of the new Utah.
Dr. Pamela Perlich is the director of demographic research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.