February 24, 2011 | Standard-Examiner | Original Article

Census: Hispanics increasing faster than other groups in Utah

Utah's population grew by more than half a million between 2000 and 2010, with the fastest portion of that growth minorities, especially Hispanics.

Totals from the 2010 U.S. Census released Thursday show the state's total population to be 2,763,885, an increase of 530,716 over the year 2000.

Juliette Tennert, director of the Governor's Office of Demographics Analysis, said the population increased by 23.8 percent, while the Hispanic/Latino population increased by 77.8 percent.

Minorities now make up 20 percent of the state's population.

The figures were released in preliminary numbers by the U.S. Census Bureau and are available today on the bureau's website at http://2010census.gov.

The new numbers will be important for the state's lawmakers and administrators, Tennert said.

"A lot of federal funding that comes into the state is based on those numbers," she said, and the state's sales tax is distributed based on these numbers, "so it is so crucial that we understand those numbers."

All counties saw significant growth.

The five most populous counties in the state are Salt Lake with 1,029,655 (a 14.6 percent increase); Utah with 516,564 (a 40.2 percent increase); Davis with 306,479 (a 28.2 percent increase); Weber with 231,236 (a 17.7 percent increase); and Washington with 138,115 (a 52.9 percent increase).

Box Elder County went from 42,745 resident to 49,975, a 16.9 percent increase. Morgan County grew 32 percent, from 7,129 residents to 9,469.

The preliminary data showed most cities are also growing rapidly.

Layton grew from 58,474 residents to 67,311, a 15.1 percent increase. Roy grew from 32,885 residents to 36,884, a 12.2 percent increase. Ogden grew from 77,226 residents to 82,225, up 7.3 percent.

The Census release sent the state's number crunchers to their calculators to figure out what it all means.

One of the busiest was Pam Perlich, senior research economist in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Perlich is a member of the Utah Population Estimates Committee. For the past five years, she has been working with projections and estimates to figure out which segments of Utah's fast-growing population were growing the most.

She had real numbers to play with Thursday.

Most significant, Perlich said, is the increase in minorities in the state as a whole, as well as in large cities such as Ogden.

"Our minority population in Utah is at 20 percent," she said, with 542,166 of all races that are not white.

"We were at 328,904 in 2000. That's an increase of over 200,000, a 65 percent increase and accounts for 40 percent of the population increase of the state.

"So four out of 10 new Utahns, either through birth or immigration, is a minority person."

Most of those are Hispanics. There were 358,340 Hispanics in Utah in 2010, up from 201,559 in 2000. Davis County now has 25,753 Hispanics, while Weber County has 38,711. Most Weber Hispanics, 24,940, live in Ogden, making that city nearly 30 percent Hispanic.

Perlich said the biggest change in Hispanic growth, which makes it the biggest change in the state, is in those ages 18 and younger.

The total population of young Hispanics increased by 68 percent, compared with a 21 percent increase of all young people, she said.

"The adult minorities are lower because the wave of diversity is a wave of kids coming first," she said. "For the adult population, the minority share is 17.7 percent."

For all minorities, "we're approaching one-in-four, or 24.4 percent, less than 18 years of age, and if we look at just Hispanic kids, almost 17 percent of all the youths in our state are Hispanic."

The bottom line, she said, is that Utah is populated by larger numbers of minorities, especially Hispanics, and is going to get more so.

"The myth of forever white Utah is a myth," she said.

John Zurbuchen, who heads English as a second language programs in Davis School District, said the new numbers don't tell him anything he hasn't seen by looking out the window.

"It sure raises education issues and population issues," he said, especially because increased minority numbers doesn't bring a lot of extra money to deal with the problems they cause.

"So we do what everyone else does -- we provide for an ESL endorsement for our teachers, which they can get through our in-service, and that gives them strategies for teaching students that need English as a second language."

He said the district also emphasizes programs, such as Latinos in Action, which uses bilingual students in junior high schools to work with students in elementary schools.

He said the district has to find ways to work with all minorities -- the district deals with 60-plus languages -- because "we've got lead time and we know it's not going to go backward, so let's go forward because those are our kids."

Davis County Commission Chairwoman Louenda H. Downs said the 28 percent increase in Davis' population is a sign the county is doing something right.

"From the perspective of a commission, we are not surprised. Growth like this is happening everywhere, and we've got a great place to live."

Eventual build-out for the county is about 450,000, she said, and "we've been really trying to build the economy, knowing that where you build, people will come, and we welcome people who can be a part of our dream."