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Snapshot of Utah's richest, poorest cities and more

Published January 12, 2011 1:27 pm
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South Jordan is rich, South Salt Lake isn't, and Utah's two largest cities have more than a quarter of their residents speaking something besides English when they are at home.

The U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey estimates — and the last before more definitive numbers from the 2010 Census — portray a diverse range of economic and cultural communities, all sharing a love of two things: families and solo commutes.

University of Utah demographer Pam Perlich cautions that the projections are based on a small survey sample and won't be as accurate as the fuller census that comes out this fall, especially when it comes to ranking smaller cities.

Who's raking it in? • South Jordan, a growing suburb on Salt Lake Valley's west side, is Utah's wealthiest large community with a median household income of $91,578.

The Census Bureau survey, conducted from 2007 through 2009 and quizzing one in 13 Utahns by Perlich's calculation, includes cities with populations of at least 20,000 (excluding such wealthy enclaves as Park City).

"It's a factor of education," South Jordan Economic Development Director Brian Preece said.

The city has a wealth of college degrees, he said, partly because people enjoy living in newer, walkable developments such as Daybreak and because there are attractive office parks nearby.

"It's a well-planned community," Preece said.

Draper ($88,185), Kaysville ($81,287), Riverton ($79,236) and Syracuse ($77,440) rounded out the top five. Salt Lake City ranked in the lower third of Utah's medium to large cities, with a median household income of $44,755.

Who's not? • By contrast, South Salt Lake had a median household income of $34,750, placing it last among the cities and contributing to its status as a leader in poverty.

Eighteen percent of its residents are classified as living in poverty, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Provo, Logan and Cedar City — three college towns — had even higher poverty rates at 34 percent, 27 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Ogden also had a higher rate, at 20 percent, while South Salt Lake came in fifth in the dubious ranking at 18 percent.

Salt Lake City's poverty rate was 16 percent, while South Jordan's state-best showing was 2 percent.

South Salt Lake's income levels may be linked to its relatively affordable rental housing. The city has the lowest rate of owner-occupied homes, at 36 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Who's educated? • Helping explain its relatively low income is South Salt Lake's rate of high school dropouts.

The census estimates that 23 percent of the city's adults age 25 and older haven't completed high school.

Other cities where about a fifth of the population lacks a high school diploma are West Valley City, Ogden, Magna, Midvale and Kearns.

Fifteen percent of Salt Lake City residents don't have one.

By contrast, Syracuse, South Jordan, Kaysville, Eagle Mountain, Sandy, Holladay, Draper and Cottonwood Heights all are estimated to have dropout rates of less than 5 percent.

Who's speaking Spanish? • West Valley City has 31 percent of its residents speaking a language other than English in their homes, according to the survey. And of those who speak a different language, 75 percent speak Spanish.

"It underscores the need for an English language initiative to unite our community," West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said.

He and other community leaders have announced such a voluntary program, recommending English classes and offering to formally recognize those who complete them.

The diversity also offers an opportunity to children who attend school with classmates from different cultures, the mayor said:

"I'm thrilled that my children are going to school in a diverse environment where they can be better prepared for the future in America."

Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said the numbers reflect Utah's young immigrant families, many of whom have children who speak English at school and Spanish at home. Latinos generally want to learn English, he said, even if signs and ads from companies looking to make them feel welcome give a different appearance.

"They're learning English," Yapias said.

Salt Lake City was second on the list for language diversity, with 28 percent speaking a language other than English at home. In South Jordan, 9 percent used another language.

Who's driving alone? • Utahns have long had a penchant for driving themselves to work, and the census estimates that the Ogden suburb of Roy leads in this category, with 84 percent of workers driving alone.

Clinton and Eagle Mountain tied for second at 82 percent. Draper and South Jordan were next at 81 percent.

In Salt Lake City, the number was 70 percent. Provo had the state's lowest rate of driving alone — 59 percent.

Not surprisingly, the outlying suburbs have the longest commute times.

Eagle Mountain, a Utah County bedroom community west of Utah Lake, averages nearly 36 minutes.

Tooele is next at about 29 minutes. Cedar City has the easiest commutes — less than 14 minutes.

Salt Lake City's average: about 20 minutes.

Where are the families? • Family units, whether married or not, are dominant in many of Utah's suburbs.

The census estimates that 94 percent of households in Syracuse were families, followed by 92 percent in Eagle Mountain.

Every Utah city surveyed had more than half its households occupied by families, and most had at least three-quarters occupied by them.

Salt Lake City and Millcreek had the lowest rates of families at 53 percent.

bloomis@sltrib.comtsemerad@sltrib.com —

Signs of the times in Utah

Here are some Utah pictures that emerge from the latest Census Bureau snapshot: Plenty of West Valley City residents don't speak English at home; South Salt Lake would be a smart place to push the GED; food banks need stocking in college towns; and the Salt Lake Valley's richest city bucks the east-side/west-side stereotype.

Language • Talk about diversity — three of every 10 West Valley City residents speak a language other than English at home.

Dropout •Nearly a quarter of South Salt Lake adults lack a vital document: a high school diploma. Syracuse's dropout rate: 2 percent.

Poverty • College towns top this dubious list. Provo, Logan and Cedar City have poverty rates ranging from 34 percent to 21 percent.

Commuting • Roy has the most motorists driving solo to work: 84 percent. Average commute: nearly 22 minutes.

Income • Utah's richest city isn't Sandy or Draper. It's South Jordan, with a median household income approaching $100K.

Families • Family units are common in Utah, but Syracuse leads the way, with 94 percent of households sporting families. —

Utah cities and communities

To see more American Community Survey statistics on 36 cities and communities in Utah, visit http://bit.ly/g0PiFk.






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