October 15, 2012

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Utah Demographics Changing, Nonprofits Must Too

Di Lewis

October 15, 2012

Utah is becoming increasingly youthful and diverse, and people in the state must adapt, said Pam Perlich at the Utah Nonprofits Association (UNA) conference on Oct. 11.

Those coming to Utah are young, many are minorities, and they have large families, said Perlich, senior research economist in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah, in her keynote speech to the group.

“This is the leading edge of the minority-majority generation,” she said. Those who are willing to move long distances, like Utah’s immigrants, are highly motivated, innovative and young, she said. And they are driving the state’s population growth, Perlich said, with more than three-quarters of Salt Lake County’s population growth coming from minorities.

Nonprofits need to pay attention to these changes because they will affect those they serve, she said. The state has grown a lot, and many of those coming to Utah are settling in “ethnic enclaves” with lower housing costs and incomes.

Perlich said the long-term drivers of change are the economy, technology and demography, with all three in flux right now. Nonprofits must remain flexible and adjust to best serve Utah’s changing population. And she reminded people to not underestimate the power for change the new young people in the community have.

“We don’t have to continue to cheap shot young people,” she said. By providing good education and access to services for the youthful population, Perlich said the state can create a better future.

“The bottom line is white people are old and we have small families,” she said. “Who is coming to Utah? Young people who have babies.” Many of those young children are minorities. One-quarter of the preschoolers in Utah are minority children, as are one-third in Salt Lake County, one-half in Salt Lake City and about four-fifths in the city’s River District.

“Utah is forever changed,” Perlich said. She said there are large portions of Utah’s population who do not have the access to housing, education and other services they need to have, and the old system is not serving them. The system needs to change to meet the needs of the new Utah demographic.

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