Blog Post

Insight: Utah’s Future: The Long View

By: Pamela Perlich

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™.

We are still in the early stages of understanding and responding to the public health, economic, and personal impacts of the coronavirus COVID-19 in Utah.  It is becoming clear that, in the short run, these events will challenge our institutions and people by disrupting economic activity, straining public health resources, and imposing stresses on our neighborhoods, households, and individuals.  How will these unfolding events impact Utah’s future, looking out 20 or even 50 years from now? Bottom line: the fundamental drivers of Utah’s demographic growth remain, even with the imminent short-run disruptions.

We focus much of our research at the Gardner Institute identifying and modeling the long-run trends shaping the Utah population and economy over the next half-century. In this work, we explicitly recognize that a precise view of the future is unknown and unknowable. We also acknowledge that we are active participants in shaping what Utah will become. Our practices and investments today guide the Utah of tomorrow. So how do we model Utah’s future given our shared responsibility to co-create it as well as the inherent uncertainty of life? And how does COVID-19 or even our next recession affect the long view of Utah’s future population? To answer these questions, let me first explain how we construct our projections.

Our long-run projections distill data and research to reveal the most fundamental drivers of Utah’s demographic and economic structure and dynamics. We ground our work in population science, economic analyses, and historical studies. We contextualize and customize our models to capture the uniqueness of Utah’s population, institutions, economy, and evolving interconnections with the outside world. We incorporate macr