Blog Post

Insight: A Contemporary History of Utah Households

By: Mallory Bateman

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

When people think of Utah, they think of big households and lots of children. While Utah does have the largest household size in the nation, you have perhaps noticed that the average household has gotten smaller. In our latest release, Shifting Foundations: A Contemporary History of Utah Households, we provide a historical perspective on how the characteristics of Utah households have changed over time.

The changes in characteristics are not unique to Utah. Utah has followed national shifts in household characteristics, with a Utah spin. Between 1940 and 2019, the national average household size decreased from 3.78 people per household to 2.61. This decrease was still pronounced in Utah but less significant than the nation – 3.95 persons per household to 3.08. Householders (or the primary respondent to the decennial census or American Community Survey) have gotten older. In Utah, the median age of householders has increased from 44.3 in 1940 to 46.6 in 2010. Nationally, this increase started at 46.0 in 1940 and went to 50.6 in 2010. The share of one-person households has increased in Utah and the United States, while households with children have decreased.

Considering that in 1940 there were about 140,000 households in Utah, and today there are over one million, these changes are not surprising. Today’s Utah is a different one than what existed 80 years ago. These changes reflect broader shifts in culture and society. Increasing education and labor-force participation for women, changes in the timing of family formation, decreasing fertility rates, and increasing migration in Utah are a few elements that have created their impact on Utah’s households.

While we wait for the data from the 2020 census, this report provides an opportunity to understand what has