Census: Utah, like rest of West, is short on women

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Skulk into a lonely booth in Park City's No Name Saloon during the tourist off-season and, after a couple of beers, it might dawn on you.

Where the heck are the women?

"I get asked two or three times a night where the girls are," No Name bartender and manager Jason Miller said Wednesday. When the hordes of skiers leave town, he estimated, the ratio of customers is 8-to-1 in favor of the boys.

OK, so maybe the ski-town bar scene isn't the best gauge of wider demographics. But if ever you thought Utah was a male-dominated society, the U.S. Census Bureau says you've got a case, and Park City is Exhibit A.

The agency today released 2008 state and population estimates showing Utah as the fourth-manliest state -- and Summit County is about as manly as it gets.

Utah is 50.5 percent male and one of only 11 states with more men than women. Leading the U.S. pack, as usual, is the fabled frontiersman's hide-out, Alaska, at 52.1 percent. Nevada and Wyoming also have a higher proportion of men, and Utah is fourth.

Miller attributed Summit County's 52.3 percent male ratio to the snowy slopes.

"More guys take ski trips," he said, "and want to move out here and be ski bums."

Statewide, though, the story is both more basic and more varied. It's basic -- and logical -- because Utah also is the nation's youngest state and boasts its highest birthrate. All those babies drive up the male figures because mothers naturally give birth to slightly more boys than girls, University of Utah demographer Pamela Perlich said. The ratio starts to even out at age 45 because men average earlier deaths, she said, but Utah's continuing youth wave blunts the effect.

But there also is an economic factor that varies the ratios county to county. Some counties simply have more male-dominated jobs -- construction and gas drilling, to name two -- that attract transient workers. Those jobs also tend to be more available in the West than elsewhere, which in turn fuels the work-force youthfulness.

"We have a permanent youth movement to our state," Perlich said, "because this is where the long-term growth prospects are for the nation."

That much is clear to Rob Adams. He is economic-development director for Beaver County -- another man-heavy outpost -- and said the evidence of construction jobs was all around him Wednesday afternoon. Reached on his cell phone while he shopped at a Beaver grocery, he described a bustling scene that would be the envy of most small-town chambers of commerce during this recession.

"It's absolutely hopping," he said. Stores are filled with guys building a copper mine, a wind farm and geothermal plants.

"We've got a lot of construction jobs," Adams said, "and most of those guys are men."

Still, he laughed when asked if he had ever noticed the apparent imbalance. Adams was skeptical of the Census Bureau's estimate that Beaver County is 52.3 percent male, same as Summit County. There are barely 6,000 people in the county, so statistics of all kinds are suspect.

Statewide figures likewise are a guess, Perlich said. Federal estimates each year feed off of the official 2000 census, and the male population temporarily shot up back then because of Interstate 15 construction and other pre-Olympics projects.

There surely are more men than women in Utah, she believes, but it's doubtful men's edge actually has grown from 50.1 percent then to 50.5 percent today.

One more caveat for women: Utah's most-male corner, 938-person Daggett County with 56 percent men, is pumped up by dozens of state jail inmates.


Tony Semerad contributed to this story.

Youthful diversity in Utah

Utah ranked second nationally, behind Alaska, for the smallest portion of its total population 65 years or older, at 9 percent. Alaska was 7 percent. Florida and West Virginia had the largest population shares of residents 65 or older, at 17 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Utah led all states for the highest percentage of its total population under age 5, at 10 percent. And it had the lowest median age, at 28.7 years old. Maine had the highest median age, at 42 years, while Vermont and Maine had the smallest shares of residents under age 5, at 5 percent each.

Minorities now make up about 18.3 percent of Utah's total population and about 24 percent of Salt Lake County's populace.

The minority-population share is higher for younger age groups. They make up about 25 percent of all Utahns 9 and under and about 34 percent of residents 9 and under in Salt Lake County.

Latinos account for about 67 percent of the total minority population statewide, followed by Asians (10 percent of the state's minorities), other non-whites (8 percent), American Indians and Alaska Natives (6 percent), blacks and African-Americans (5 percent) and Pacific Islanders (4 percent).

Tony Semerad