The Times-Independent

The ‘New Utah’ is aging. How does Grand County stack up?

New study from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute highlights state-wide demographic trends

Utah is growing and getting older as it becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, says a new study released Oct. 9 by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

Grand County’s population has increased 5.4% since 2010.
File photo

The study says that Utah “faces a critical inflection point” as changing demographic and economic changes create a “New Utah.”

Grand County, the 8th smallest county in Utah, mirrors some demographic trends in the state and diverges from others.

Since 2010, Utah grew from a small to mid-sized state, surpassing four states in population size. This makes it the 30th largest state the in U.S.

Grand County saw significantly lower population growth by percentage between 2010 and 2023. The county’s population increased 5.4%, compared to a 21.8% increase in the state.

Jennifer Robinson, chief of staff at the Gardner Policy Institute and an author of the study, said that it’s important to keep in mind that some of these changes are more pronounced in certain areas of the state.

For example, “population growth is lower in some areas than what we would expect along the Wasatch Front,” Robinson said.

Utah’s population is also aging, a trend the Gardner Policy institute study attributes to declining fertility rates alongside an aging population.

The median age in the state has grown significantly in the past 40 years, from a median age of 24.2 years in 1980 to 31.3 years in 2020.

Grand County, on the other hand, skews slightly older. Census data suggests that in 1980 the median age of Grand County was 28.8 years old. By 2020, the median age reached 42.8.

The Utah Long Term-Planning Projection Summary, published by the Gardner Policy Institute in 2022, predicted that by 2060, the median age in Grand County will be 49.9 years and the population will surpass 14,000.

Compared to Salt Lake City, Robinson said, this might not sound like much. “But in terms of percentage, that does matter.”

This population growth represents a 44% increase from a population of 9,669 in 2020.

Though Utah maintains the fourth highest fertility rate in the country, it has fallen in recent years to 1.9 in 2020. Fertility rates measure the average number of children per woman.

A fertility rate of 1.9 falls below the replacement level, or the level at which a population would perfectly replace itself from generation to generation.

Grand County had a 1.75 fertility rate in 2020 and is predicted to decline further.

Despite lower fertility rates, Utah’s population continues to grow due to external growth, or net migration, says the study. Between 2021 and 2022, migration accounted for 61% of population growth.

Grand County matched this level, with migration accounting for 60% of population growth between 2021 and 2022.

Utah is becoming more multicultural and ethnically diverse. In 2022, 23.3% of the population was a racial or ethnic minority. This compares to 9.5% in 1990.

Grand County is nearly but not quite as diverse, with racial and ethnic minorities accounting for 19.2% of the population in the 2020 census.

The study also outlined economic trends that are impacting the state, highlighting a housing unaffordability crisis and consistent job growth.

Both trends are familiar to Grand County. Robinson notes that Grand County’s job growth since March 2020 stands at 41%.

“That’s a really strong growth number, one of the largest in the state.”