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Posted: 6:40:13 AM- Utahns continue to marry and start families at ages younger than the rest of the nation, and continue to have the nation's highest birth rate, according to the 2005 American Community Survey released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Behind the state's large households - 3.07 individuals, compared with 2.6 nationally - is its nation's highest fertility rate, 2.5 children per woman in 2004 compared to the national rate 2.0.

Utah's Hispanic fertility rate was 3.5 children per woman, while the national Hispanic fertility rate was 2.7.

"Like a lot of the nation in general, we're seeing a large share of our population increase coming from Hispanics," said Pam Perlich, senior research economist with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Utah.

However, Utah continues to be one of the states with small numbers of minorities. Its non-Hispanic white population was put at 83.6 percent, ranking it 16th in the nation. The national average was 66.8 percent.

Demographers say the main factor that contributes to young marriages and large households is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church says its members account for 72 percent of Utah's population.

"The downside, of course, is we're going to have to build more schools," said Brigham Young University associate professor of geography Sam Otterstrom. "Some people think that's the downside, in terms of more taxes."

Otterstrom calls the trend toward young, traditional families "the church effect."

Utah has the lowest rate of out-of-wedlock births, at 14.7 percent to unwed mothers from 2000 to 2003, according to the Census Bureau. The national rate for the same period was 29.1 percent.

It also has the highest percentage of households that are married couples with children at 32.4 percent, compared to the national rate of 21.7 percent.

Utah also continues to have the nation's lowest median age at 28.5. Maine has the highest at 41.2. The national figure was 36.4.