Expanding population projections pose future challenges across state
Analysts predict that the rapid population growth experienced at locations across Utah during the 1990s will continue for the next 30 years.
Challenges created by a steadily expanding population underlie several major issues facing the state, pointed out a research brief recently released by the Utah Foundation.
The projected growth will significantly impact Utah's public and higher education systems, labor market, limited water supply, health care, environment and transportation.
Analysis of the state's process economic and demographic model data indicates that Utah's public school age population will increase by 24 percent or 163,000 students in the next 10 years and by 39 percent or more than 264,000 pupils by 2030, notes the independent public policy organization's research brief.
Addressing the matter of higher education, the University of Utah's bureau of economic research predicts that the state's college-aged population will decrease until 2008, then experience a boom period between 2016 and 2025.
In addition, participation in Utah's labor market continues to grow at a rapid pace, while the state's economy continues to struggle to recover from the effects of the recent recession.
Utah's population expanded by 30 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to United States Census Bureau counts.
But the number of workers jumped 41 percent due primarily to the fact that the Utah baby boom peaked in the early 1980s.
The baby boomers entered the state's labor force in the 1990s, explained the U of U research bureau.
Nationally, the baby boom peaked in the 1950s, ending in 1964 and fostering 19 percent job growth during the 1990s.
Utah's economic prosperity and job growth in the 1990s resulted in considerable net in-migration into the state, adds the foundation's research brief. In-migration slowed in recent years due to a less favorable economic climate. But the Utah population estimates committee expects positive net in-migration to occur through 2030.
Net in-migration is expected to account for 20 percent of Utah's projected 1.5 million population increase during the next three decades, contingent on improvements in job growth and the state's economy.
During the last decade, vehicle miles traveled in Utah jumped more than 50 percent, contrasting with approximately 30 percent population growth statewide.
The increase in the working population accounted for a significant percentage of the jump in vehicle miles traveled, notes the independent public policy organization.
U.S. Census Bureau figures confirm that 16.6 percent of employed Utahns commuted to different counties for work in 2000, compared to 15.2 percent in 1990 and 13.5 percent in 1980.
The majority of the out-commuting was to Salt Lake County, which provided 47.4 percent of the jobs statewide.
From April 2000 to July 2002, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nine of Utah's 10 fastest growing cities had populations of less than 10,000 residents.
Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain in Utah County grew 216 percent and 183 percent respectively, followed by Herriman in Salt Lake County at 175 percent.
On the other hand, the state's three largest cities - Salt Lake, West Valley and Provo - posted little or no growth during the designated two-year period.
The employment and commuting trends will have a major impact on air quality in Utah.
The Utah Foundation identified vehicle emissions as the largest source of air pollutants statewide. Therefore, barring major gains in fuel efficiency, emissions will likely grow at a similar pace as increased vehicle travel.
In a statewide poll conducted by the independent public policy organizations, Utahns surveyed identified health insurance coverage for children and care for the elderly as two major issues of concern.
Children and elderly citizens represent two of the fastest growing segments of Utah's population, explained the foundation.
Large increases in the number of children and elderly residents will place additional strain on Utah's limited health care resources.
State funding devoted to children's health insurance and elderly care programs has already failed to keep pace with the growing populations.
Considerable state and national attention has traditionally been paid to Utah's younger population.
However, people ages 85 and older represent the fastest growing segment of the state's population, noted the independent public policy organization research brief.
In fact, the governor's office of planning and budget expects the number of older Utahns to expand from 7,177 in 2000 to 10,059 by 2015.
The number of older citizens anticipated to reside at locations throughout the state is projected to reach 16,302 by the year 2030.
By comparison, the governor's offices expects the number of births in Utah to increase from 50,718 per year in 2004 to 59,185 by 2014.
Utah's annual birth trend is projected to continue through 2030, noted the independent public policy organization.
The governor's office estimates that natural increase - births minus deaths - will fuel 81 percent of the state's population growth during the next 30 years, concludes the Utah Foundation's recently released research brief.