U of U study finds youth population in SLC lowest in over a century

Nov 27, 2023, 12:33 PM | Updated: 3:26 pm

Empty swing set (Stock Photo, laterjay)...

Empty swing set (Stock Photo, laterjay)

(Stock Photo, laterjay)

SALT LAKE CITY — A recent study from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute shows that Salt Lake City’s population grew over the last decade, but its youth population decreased to the lowest number in over a century.

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute is a part of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and studies economic, demographic, and public policy data. Heidi Prior, the public policy analyst at the Garnder Institute spearheaded the report, accompanied by Mallory Bateman, director of demographic research.

Overall stats

The study, showing demographics from 2020, resolves that between 2010 and ’20, the city gained 13,283 new residents overall, growing 7%.

Despite the growth, the population of residents under 18 shrunk by 4,933 by 2020, leaving 37,101 — the lowest number in over 100 years.

Figure 1 of the report released by the Unversity of Utah's Kem C Policy Institute entitled "A Look into the 2010-2020 Decline in salt Lake City's Youth Population." (Kem C Gardner Policy Institute)

Figure 1 of the report released by the Unversity of Utah’s Kem C Policy Institute entitled “A Look into the 2010-2020 Decline in Salt Lake City’s Youth Population.” (Kem C Gardner Policy Institute)

The report highlights that the decreases occurred substantially on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Rose Park, Poplar Grove, Glendale, Westpointe, and Fairpark all saw the largest decreases in population under age 10.

A portion of Figure 6 shown in a study of Salt Lake City's youth population decreases from ages 0-9. (Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute,)

A portion of Figure 6 shown in a study of Salt Lake City’s youth population decreases from ages 0-9. (Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute)

Possible explanation for the decrease

“The capital city’s decreasing youth population is part of a much larger trend, mirroring declines experienced by many western cities and shifts observed in the state and county populations,” Prior said of the report.

The data from similar western cities from 1950-2020 was shown in the report, including Boise, Denver, and Reno. The comparison concludes that those cities are experiencing similar decreases in those under 18.

Many of the cities experienced suburban growth outside the growing cities and therefore experienced decreases in youth as families moved closer to them. Salt Lake City did experience a “suburban flight” as the study calls it, through the 1960s to the 1980s, saying that during that time 26,000 families relocated to suburbs.

However, the study awards the reason for the decrease in the last three decades to a different reason: adults were attracted to the city, yielding households without children.

Which racial and ethnic groups increased

The last key point Prior’s study shows is an increase in racial and ethnic diversity in its youth population as it decreased in size. The racial groups that plummeted the most were Hispanic or Latino which was down by 21%, non-Hispanic white, 14%; and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native youth, 13%.

African American and Pacific Islander youths also decreased, while Asian increased by 14%. All other youths were accounted for by the U.S. Census Bureau as “non-Hispanic two or more races” and “non-Hispanic some other race.”

The report acknowledged the terms that were used for this question on census summaries should be analyzed with caution.

“Data users should use caution when comparing 2010 and 2020 census race data because of improvements to the question design, data processing, and coding procedures for the 2020 census,” the report states.

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U of U study finds youth population in SLC lowest in over a century