Baseline 2020: Demographics and Economics

The central assumptions, data, projects and constraints contained in Baseline 2020 originate from key planning documents that are broad in scope, but encompass the very most important features of more detailed plans prepared by city, county, and state entities. For presentation purposes, the baseline is presented by subject area with a brief description of the most important points in three areas: (1) sources and assumptions, (2) characteristics and trends, and (3) major issues and findings.

Source and Assumptions

Long term population, employment, and household projections for Utah's counties are produced by the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget. These projections inform the planning processes of state government, local government, and private entities. The fundamental logic of the modeling process follows the general points listed below. These points are followed by the main assumptions.


  • Changes in the size and composition of a region's population depend upon (1) the size and demographic characteristics of the initial population; (2) the annual number of births; (3) the annual number of deaths; and (4) the number and characteristics of persons moving into and out of the region.
  • Migration into or out of a region occurs both because of employment opportunities and other factors such as the desire to attend school, serve a religious mission, retire, or accompany other members of a household who are migrating for any of these or other reasons. Employment related migration is a function of the number and types of jobs created in the region and the availability of local labor supply to fill these jobs. In- migration occurs when there are not enough people in the labor force to fill all of the jobs. Out migration occurs when there are not enough jobs to support the population.
  • Assumptions

  • Fertility rates (a calculation of age-specific birth rates) are held constant at 1990 levels. Fertility rates for both Utah and the nation have fallen since the 1960s, but have been relatively stable for many years. Utah is expected to continue to have among the highest fertility rate in the nation.
  • Survival rates are held constant at 1990 levels. Life expectancy in Utah and the nation has increased over the past three decades, but appears to be leveling off. Utahns are expected to continue to live longer than their national counterparts.
  • Labor force participation rates are projected to increase slightly in Utah, particularly for women. The rate of increase, however, is projected to moderate. This assumption is consistent with the projections of federal statistical entities.
  • Utah's economy is projected to continue to grow more rapidly than that of the nation and its industrial structure is assumed to continue to diversify. These assumptions are based on analysis of historic trends, national projections, and local technical input on 66 detailed industries. Specific assumptions have been made regarding the impact of the 2002 Winter Games, downsizing of the federal government, private education, and other events and industries.


Characteristics and Trends

The Greater Wasatch Area currently includes approximately 1.62 million people which is slightly smaller than the Portland metropolitan area. By the year 2020 this population is projected to increase to 2.70 million, an increase of approximately 2.1 percent per year and similar to the current size of the San Diego metropolitan area. This annual rate of population increase is approximately twice the national average. Based on these projections, the population will increase by an average of 43,000 people per year, a population approximately the size of the city of Bountiful. Natural increase is projected to account for two-thirds of the new growth and net in-migration will average approximately 13,000 people per year.

The population in the Greater Wasatch Area, like that of the nation, will continue to age as the baby boom generation ages into the older age groups. The median age in the 10-county area is projected to rise from 26.8 in 1995 to 30.8 in 2020. Even with this increase in the median age, the Greater Wasatch Area will still have a population significantly younger than the national average. By 2020, 31 percent of the population is projected to be under age 18, compared to 34 percent in 1995. The percent of the population 65 years of age and older is projected to increase from 8 percent in 1995 to 11 percent in 2020.

The number of households in the Greater Wasatch Area is projected to increase from 523,517 in 1995 to 958,454 in 2020. Households are projected to increase by an average rate of 2.4 percent per year, slightly faster than the corresponding population growth rate and approximately 17,400 more households each year.

Total jobs in the Greater Wasatch Area are projected to increase from 933 thousand in 1995 to 1.6 million in 2020. This represents an average annual increase of 2.3 percent per year compared to a rate of 1.0 percent for the national average. The service industry is projected to increase at a faster average rate than any other major industry. Agriculture is the only major industry projected to lose jobs over the 25 year period.

Major Issues and Findings

The anticipated changes in the population and economy of the Greater Wasatch Area introduce several major issues and findings that are relevant to the understanding of the baseline and the development of alternative scenarios. These include the following:

  • The population in the Greater Wasatch Area is projected to increase from 1.62 million, a population slightly smaller than the Portland metropolitan area, to 2.70 million, a population similar to the current size of the San Diego metropolitan area.
  • The current and projected rates of population growth which are approximately twice the national average are not unprecedented in terms of Utah's recent history, nor unique among the Intermountain states.(5) The Greater Wasatch Area's historical rate of population growth from 1970 to 1995 averaged 2.4 percent per year. The projected rate for the same area from 1995 to 2020 is 2.1 percent. The Intermountain states over the same historic period grew at 2.6 percent per year and are projected by the Bureau of the Census to increase at a lower rate through 2020.
  • The primary reason for the Greater Wasatch Area's rapid and stable population growth is the many large families in the state. Utah has a relatively young population and therefore a disproportionately large share of women in childbearing years. In addition, Utah's fertility rate of 2.55 children per woman is the highest in the nation; the national rate is 2.05 children per woman.(6) These two factors result in a relatively large number of births.
  • Utah's preferences for large families and healthy lifestyles, result in a high rate of indigenous population growth. During the next 25 years approximately two-thirds of the population growth in the Greater Wasatch Area is projected to originate from residents' own children and grandchildren. Residents in the Greater Wasatch Area have higher life expectancies then their national counterparts. Higher survival rates and a younger population results in a relatively smaller number of deaths per capita.
  • The Greater Wasatch Area will average approximately 43,000 new residents a year over the next 25 years. This is an annual population growth of roughly the current size of Bountiful. These new residents will require government services and infrastructure. They will also increase the levels of congestion and place tremendous pressures on open space, farmlands, and air quality.
  • Homes and apartments for approximately 17,400 new houesholds will need to be built and converted every year.
  • In a society where people have the constitutional right to move freely among states, in and out migration is a given. It has never been the goal of the state to have net in-migration, but leaders have tried to foster an economy that provides economic opportunity to current and future residents. Attempts to limit in-migration by restricting economic development opportunities are likely to negatively impact economic prospects for residents as well.
  • The economy in the Greater Wasatch Area is projected to remain strong over the next 25 years. This is based on analysis of the historic and national trends in over 60 industries, as well as local expertise. Job growth is projected to be sufficient to provide for Utah's rapidly growing labor force and will even attract in-migrants throughout most of the next 25 years. Net in-migration is projected to average 13,000 new residents per year.
  • Projections indicate that creating sufficient jobs for the resident population in the years following the 2002 Winter Olympics will be a challenge. Some economic activity that would normally occur after 2002 will be accelerated to occur in the years prior to the Winter Olympics. To prepare for this anticipated slowdown, economic developers need to focus their efforts on the growth industries of the 21st century. This includes making plans today for a business climate and educational system that enables the creation of high quality jobs.




5. The Intermountain states are defined to be Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. 

6. The fertility rates is a measure of the number of births a woman would have during the course of her lifetime if, at each year of age, she experienced the birthrate occurring for that specific year.



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