SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's birth rate continues to decline, impacting a number of other youth issues, according to a new report.
The Utah Foundation released the report on Monday, highlighting a cascading series of policy impacts tied to the birth rate and the state's youth.
While Utah still has the highest birth rate, it has dropped by nearly a third since 2008, the report said. The entire United States reported a more modest decline.
"The birth rate is declining all over the country. So we’re just part of this trend," said Peter Reichard, the president of the Utah Foundation.
It's not something that can easily be tied to a policy fix, he told FOX 13 News.
"There’s a general perception out there that it’s getting harder to have and raise kids and it’s getting more expensive to do that and the world is a more complicated place in so many ways," Reichard said.
But the report also found it plays into a host of other issues, such as Utah's spending on education.
"We looked at our spending on primary and secondary education, and we looked at it per $1,000 in personal income. So to gauge how much wealth do we put into this K-12 public education? And the amount has declined notably. Going back to 2008, it declined more than 20% and now Utah is below the national average on this metric," Reichard said.
It's a different metric than per-pupil spending, which teachers unions often cite. The state has consistently ranked near the bottom (if not the lowest) in that metric, too.
Other metrics cited by the Utah Foundation put the state at the bottom with Arizona in the number of youth programs (Montana and Wyoming were at the top). But the state has consistently been among the top in the nation for parks and recreation.
"Utah has been declining on that metric, but here again the rest of the country has been declining as well so we remain in the top five nationally on that one," Reichard said.
Reports like this can influence policy. And, in this case, the legislature may be ahead of the data. The legislature this year pumped millions into education and outdoor recreation (which Reichard acknowledged was not reflected in their report).
"We are hyper focused on the next generation. We have seen incredible growth in our state over the past decade and are working hard to create the best future for all Utahns. We have invested more in education than ever before in our state’s history. This last year alone, we increased the overall education budget by 9%," Senate President J. Stuart Adams said, reacting to the report.
In a statement, he said during COVID-19 the state fully funded education programs while many other states made cuts and layoffs.
"We also invested $38 million for improved access to outdoor recreation and state parks during the 2022 session. In the previous year, we allocated $110 million for parks, trails, recreation and quality of life. As lawmakers, we are focused on creating the best future for our kids and grandkids."
Read the Utah Foundation report here: