New U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday show that population growth among Utah minorities zoomed twice as fast as for whites between 2011 and 2012 up 2.7 percent compared with 1.2 percent.
Minorities accounted for a third of the 40,940 total new residents added to Utah in 2012.
If current trends continue, minorities could outnumber whites in Utah perhaps around 2050 with that transition happening as early as 2035 in the nation as a whole and perhaps in places such as Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Ogden and Midvale, says Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah.
"The cohort of kids coming up will see a very different Utah. It's unfolding fairly rapidly in just this generation," she said. "It's a very different world they are growing up in than the old very homogenous one."
Sometimes attitude changes lag reality, says Tony Yapias.
"I run into a lot of people who think Utah will continue to look the way it did 10, 20 or 30 years ago. But the change is inevitable, and it is coming whether we like it or not," said Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino.
"With Utah becoming more diverse, it is important to know who we are in the state and it is wise to understand each other better," he added. "With more diversity also come political influence for minorities."
The numbers •New census estimates said that in 2012, the white population in Utah grew by 1.2 percent. At the same time, the black population grew by 5.2 percent; the Asian community by 4.8 percent; Pacific Islander, 3.5 percent; Latino, 2.5 percent; and American Indian, 1.9 percent.
That growth in local minority communities was faster than national averages. Nationally, the Asian population grew by 2.9 percent; Latino by 2.2 percent; Pacific Islander by 2.2 percent; American Indian by 1.5 percent; and black by 1.3 percent.
Utah whites still vastly outnumber minority residents for now. Utah has 2.33 million non-Hispanic whites, making up 81.6 percent of the population. The next largest group is Latinos, with 393,267 people, or 13.8 percent of the population.
Asians account for 3.1 percent of the Utah population; American Indians, 2.2 percent; blacks, 1.8 percent; and Pacific Islanders, 1.4 percent.
The percentages add up to more than 100 percent because some people report belonging to more than one minority group, according to the census.
"There actually is much more diversity here than shows up in those numbers," Perlich said. "For example, Bosnian or Serbian refugee immigrants to Utah are classified as white, non-Hispanic.... Anybody of Middle Eastern descent shows up as white, non-Hispanic."
Natural growth • Utah minority populations are expanding for numerous reasons but immigration is not a main one, even though it may be perhaps the nation's hottest current political issue. "The data indicate that immigration is just at a trickle," Perlich said.
The census said that of the 40,940 new residents Utah added in 2012, 89 percent came from the natural increase resulting from more births than deaths. Only 4,730 people were added by net migration virtually all of them coming from international destinations instead of other states. Most of those coming through international in-migration, said Perlich, were returning LDS missionaries and international students attending local universities.
She says the economy has not yet recovered enough from the recession to attract immigrants in big numbers. "We still have a lot of people who are unemployed, and job creation is not very rapid right now." She added that the economies in countries that produced immigrants recently are "picking up, so there's no particular reason for immigrants to come right now based on the economy."
Immigrant babies • But Perlich said much of the current, more rapid growth among Utah minorities has its roots in rapid immigration during the 1990s and 2000s before the recession hit. That trend brought many people who are now young adults having babies at higher rates than whites.
Perlich notes that for the past 15 years or so, about a third of new Utah residents have been minorities.
"In the 1990s, that was being driven by net migration of young adults moving in.
Now, a greater share of that is coming through births from people who migrated during that big wave of immigration," she said.
Meanwhile, Utah's big baby boom generation is aging beyond child-bearing years, and its members are dying in higher numbers reducing whites' share of the population and growth. "We baby boomers are old and white. If you figure 1946 through 1964 is the baby boom, 1946 is retirement age. The probability of death goes up," Perlich said.
That contributed to Utah's median age ticking up to 29.9 years old in 2012, up from 29.6 in 2011 and 29.2 in 2010. Still, Utah's median age remainsthe youngest in the nation, primarily because oflarge families. The median age nationally is 37.5 years old. Maine has the oldest median age among the states at 43.5.
Diversity in counties • Only one of Utah's 29 counties is now "minority majority" San Juan, where Navajos make up 48.5 of the populationand white non-Hispanics account for 48 percent.
New estimates say Salt Lake County is the next most diverse with a population that is 75.2 percent white, non-Hispanic.
Estimates say the state's largest county added 16,096 residents in 2012 or 40 percent of all the state's growth.
Other counties that are a bit more diverse than average for Utah include Weber, 79.4 percent; Uintah, 84 percent; and Grand, 84.9 percent. Counties that have the highest percentages of white, non-Hispanics include Morgan, 96.5 percent; Daggett, 95 percent; and Rich, 94.4 percent.
On another note, new estimates say 11 rural counties lost population during 2012: Box Elder, -0.4 percent; Carbon, -0.5 percent; Daggett, -6 percent; Emery, 0.3 percent; Garfield, -1.5 percent; Kane, -0.3 percent; Millard, -0.3 percent; Rich, -2.2 percent; Sanpete, -0.3 percent; Sevier, -0.6 percent; and Wayne, -0.9 percent.