Census: 1 in 5 Utahns now a minority

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - For the first time since early Mormon pioneers quickly outnumbered native Indians, Utah’s population officially is now more than 20 percent minority.

That’s according to U.S. Census Bureau survey data released Thursday on the 2013 population by race, age and sex.

“We’ve crossed a threshold,” Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/1qfFk5X). “We’ve surpassed one of every five Utah persons being a minority.”

Specifically, 588,271 of Utah’s 2.9 million residents were minorities in 2013 - or 20.3 percent, according to estimates. In the 2010 census, 19.4 percent of Utahns were minorities.

“For us in the Latino community, it means we now have a concrete base in demographics, and the concrete base is widened with other minorities,” said Archie Archuleta, board president of the Coalition of La Raza in Utah.

“It means that an all-white Utah is no longer the issue. The issue now becomes how we integrate this new group into the existing system,” he said. “Are we going to be split up into splinter groups? We can’t have that. So the only way to avoid that is to look at what is and what is becoming” to integrate all groups and meet their needs.

The new data show that the largest Utah minority group is Latinos, comprising 13.4 percent of the population. Other major groups include Asians at 3.2 percent; American Indians, 2.2 percent; blacks, 1.9 percent; and Pacific islanders, 1.4 percent.

“Minorities are actually underrepresented in the numbers,” Perlich said. She explained, for example, that people from the Middle East or others who may be considered minorities often list themselves in surveys as “white.”

Also, she said most Latinos dislike racial options offered in surveys and often mark “other race.” The Census Bureau redistributes numbers from the “other” category among all other races, including whites. So that helps to overestimate the number of whites (compared with all minorities), she said.

Immigration is not the main cause for the increase in minorities.

“More of the increase in diversity is coming from births than from in-migration,” Perlich said. “Immigration has really slowed.”

She said big waves of immigration came in the 1990s and 2000s until the Great Recession hit. She said the immigrants “were disproportionately young people in their child-bearing years.” As immigrants have more children, the minority growth rate “tends to be native-born minorities instead of immigrants.”

Meanwhile, the new data show Utah still has the youngest median age in America - but it continues to creep upward.

Utah’s median age is 30.2 years old, estimates say. Maine has the oldest median age at 43.9. The national average is 37.6. While the nation overall continues to get older, seven states actually got younger last year - mainly energy boom states such as North Dakota and Wyoming that are attracting young workers to oil fields.

Utah’s median age is up by a full year since 2010, when it was 29.2, data show.

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