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FOX 13 News 360: Utah changing through the eyes of the Census

Posted at 10:44 PM, Aug 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 07:47:43-04

If you took a time machine back 10 years, and then 100 years, to see how the people and places in Utah have changed, the U.S. Census would provide a pretty good trans-dimensional map.

That's in part because it shows us who was in the state and where they were in the state.

But it's also because the nature of the census itself -- the choice of words and the focus on certain aspects of life reveals something different about the world in each decade.

For example, the 2020 census asks about multi-racial identities in far more detail. Is your heritage from two races? Three? Four or more?

It's clear Utahns are thinking along those lines because from 2010 to 2020, 152% more residents said yes — they do fit one of the multi-racial categories.

Mallory Bateman with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute figured that last number out. She coordinates Census data for the state of Utah. She also looked at the racial and ethnic makeup of the new residents who made Utah grow at a faster clip than any other state.

"Over half — I think it was 52 percent — of our statewide growth in population came from racial and ethnic minority populations," Bateman said.

You can see some of her work on the Gardner Institute website.

The Census in 2020 also included a new metric called the "Diversity Index," which is a way of measuring diversity as more than just "white" and "minority." The index tells you how likely it would be that two people chosen at random in a particular locale would be of different racial or ethnic backgrounds.

Utah's diversity index for 2020 is 40.7. That means four out of 10 times, that random pairing of people would be diverse.

To explain why such an index is helpful, consider the scores for Salt Lake County and San Juan County.

Salt Lake County is Utah's second most diverse with an index of 50.1, meaning five in 10 random pairings would come up diverse.

San Juan County is Utah's most diverse with an index of 57.9. Almost six in 10 pairings would be diverse.

The interesting thing between the two is that Salt Lake County has a majority white, non-Hispanic population with a large population representing other races and ethnicities. In San Juan County, the majority of residents are American Indian or Native Alaskan (the official census category. Of course, they are Navajo and Ute.). The index is about the diversity and not about any particular race or ethnicity.

When we use the Census to fly back a century, to 1920, we see a different human landscape in many ways.

First, race is considered very differently. Black or African American people (they are called a more antiquated and offensive term) numbered just 1,446 in Utah. American Indians, called just "Indians" at the time, numbered 2,711, and Asians were divided by nationality. Japanese made up the largest group among Utah's minorities with 2,936 residents. The Census counted people from India as "Hindus," and didn't even include a category for Latino or Hispanic ethnicity.

The census in 1920 was far more meticulous than it is today about the specifics of national origin among Europeans. They counted people in categories of "Native parentage, Foreign parentage, Mixed parentage, and Foreign-born white."

In more specifics, 1920 Utah had 14,836 people born in England, 6,970 from Denmark, 6,073 from Sweden, 3,589 from Germany, 3,225 from Italy, and 3,029 from Greece.

Utah newspapers of the time included talk about the troubled immigration system, focusing on European coming to Ellis Island.

The Emery County Progress printed an op-ed from the Secretary of Labor, James J. Davis, arguing for a system to test potential immigrants physically and mentally before they leave their countries.

"I hold that whoever comes from abroad to degrade the American level of intelligence, of physical or mental or moral life, degrades every honest naturalized citizen," Davis wrote as published in the June 23, 1923 edition.

On October 8, 1921, The Emery County Progress printed another article talking about another trend from the 1920 census — the first time more Americans lived in cities than in rural settings. At the time, cities were considered to have more than 2,500 people. The move to cities, the article suggested, was morally dangerous.

"Back to the soil! An American slogan for Americans!" wrote Edwin T. Meredith.

In 1920, 52% of Utahns still lived in rural areas. In fact, even Utah's now-urban counties had large swaths of farmland and empty space, and people were far more spread across the state's geography.

Box Elder, Sanpete and Carbon counties were all more populated than Davis County — now Utah's third most populous.

Washington County, now booming, had just over 6,000 residents.

Aside from Salt Lake City, Ogden was the largest city by far, with nearly 33 thousand residents compared to Provo's 10,303.

But people were moving to the cities, and that trend only accelerated.

In 2010, the census showed Utah to have the eighth largest urban population among the 50 states.

In 2020, Utah's urbanization followed the same pattern observed nationally. According to Bateman, the fastest-growing communities were adjacent to big cities.

"Those neighboring areas are definitely where the really intense growth is, but there is growth kind of in the core but it's a different magnitude," Bateman said.

Each of Utah's three big metro areas has a legacy city at its core, but the strongest growth is in the suburbs.

Ogden is still the biggest city in Weber and Davis Counties, and it grew 5 percent from 2010 to 2020, but West Haven grew 63 percent.

Salt Lake City still stands bigger than all others in the state and it grew 7 percent, but nearby Herriman grew 153 percent.

Provo is still the biggest in Utah County, and it added 2 percent to its population — but there's a city called Vineyard nearby that had just barely started to grow with 192 residents in 2010.

"Vineyard is the one that we've been watching, and their growth rate was almost 9,000 percent," Bateman pointed out.

The tiny burg of 192 in 2010 grew to 12,543 by 2020.