Blog: Utah’s Near Future: Short-term Population Projections

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Blog: Utah’s Near Future: Short-term Population Projections

By: Mike Hollingshaus

We are pleased to release our new short-term projections for 2018 to 2028. They incorporate the latest data to give Utahns newer insights into our changing demographics. Our projections show the state continuing to grow over the next ten years, at an average of 1.7 percent annually. This translates into 570,000 people. Household growth is also robust with an increase of 270,000 over 10 years. In general, births have slowed, and net migration is becoming an even more important component of Utah’s growth.

These new projections should help Utah’s policymakers as they plan for our future. We generated them using the Utah Demographic and Economic Model (UDEM). We previously used this model to generate long-term projections extending from 2016 to 2065. Users should still use the long-term projections for applications beyond 2028. But, for any short-term work, we recommend these new projections.

Why do we update projections? Long-term projections rely upon long-term trends, but, short-term projections must consider the cyclical short-term trends that require continual data monitoring. Policymakers rely particularly upon projections of the next few years for immediate plans and budgets. These short-term projections fill that need.

A lot has happened in the past few years, especially with births. Utah birth rates are declining quickly, especially among teen mothers. These rates have been steadily decreasing for a long time, especially since the last recession, and our long-term projections assumed that slow decline would continue.

Our team was genuinely surprised by how fast births have fallen in the last two years. These new projections account for the lowering birth rate. The new projection for 2018 to 2028 is about 530,000, compared to our initial figure of 580,000—a difference of 50,000. Births are contributing less to Utah’s population growth.

The projection of deaths is almost identical to our original projection. This means that overall, natural increase (births minus deaths) is becoming a smaller driver of population growth.  We originally anticipated natural increase to contribute 65 percent of growth over these ten years, and we now project 59 percent. Utah will remain a natural increase state for some time. This contrasts sharply with many areas of the world, including some in the U.S., that experience natural decrease.

The remainder of growth is due to net migration. The economy is robust, and many people will move for a good job. But, economics are only part of Utah’s migration story. People also like the educational, health care, and other quality-of-life opportunities in Utah. And, people often move to Utah, or choose not to leave it, to be close to their families. Our national profile has risen considerably in the past couple decades, and those global interconnections make it easier for people to make Utah their home. We project migration will comprise 41 percent of total growth over the next 10 years (compared to our original 35).

Of course, this all depends upon continuing patterns. We simply can’t foresee recessions, catastrophes, major medical breakthroughs, or drastic changes in public policy. This is why our updated projections are so critical. We can see what’s actually happened reflected in the latest data, and update our models and numbers.

Utahns needs good population data, and we are grateful for the opportunity to apply our education and skills. It’s nice to see our work immediately useful to all kinds of people in the community, not just a handful of scholars.

Many government organizations use our projections. They help policymakers allocate tax dollars efficiently by knowing where the people and jobs will be. For example, our projections of the school-aged population inform anticipated student enrollments used for education budgeting. Businesses use them to determine future demand. Other researchers use the projections as inputs into their own models.

These latest projections are useful for anyone who wants current information on Utah’s most likely future. We look forward to bringing you further updates as more data become available.

Mike Hollingshaus is a demographer at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

2019-06-19T09:15:53+00:00June 19th, 2019|Blog, Demographics, Population Projections|