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Census estimates released Thursday suggest that Utah continues to gain economic strength, with incomes rising and poverty decreasing.
However, more than a quarter of the state's young adults, ages 18 to 34, lives with parents. Economists say that is a lingering effect from the Great Recession, coupled with high housing costs.
Still, "the economic indicators are going [in] the right direction," especially compared with the dark days of the recession, says Pam Perlich, director of demographics at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
The income information was part of the U.S. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey, which provides a statistical snapshot of the nation in more than 40 economic and social categories.
Income • The new estimates say that over the past year, the median Utah household income rose from $60,976 to $62,912; median family income (in a household where everyone is related) jumped from $69,631 to $71,594; and median per-capita income saw an uptick from $24,905 to $25,816.
Utah's household income is higher than the national median of $55,775, Perlich said, because its households are larger so more people combine incomes, including adult children. Utah's per-capita income is typically among the lowest in the nation because of its high number of young children, who usually do not have incomes.
Perlich said she is unsure whether rising incomes result from people receiving raises or working extra jobs or whether household incomes are growing because their size is increasing and perhaps more adult children are finding jobs.
"Or maybe things are just getting incrementally better," Perlich said. "I think it's probably all of the above."
Carrie Mayne, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said another reason may be "because we have such a diverse economy." She said that creates the "opportunity to improve wages because there're so many opportunities to find that next job, that better job."
The state's economy has been creating new jobs, and that gives people the ability "to be a free-market job seeker looking for the best opportunity, perhaps moving to another company or moving up the career ladder," Mayne said.
Utah was among 38 states where median household income increased last year. Maryland had the highest at $75,847, and Mississippi had the lowest at $40,593.
Poverty • Utah's poverty rate in 2015 was 11.3 percent, 12th lowest in the nation. That was statistically the same as 2014, but the poverty rate has decreased from 13.2 percent in 2010 at the height of the recession.
"We can see that it's come down significantly" since the recession, Perlich said. "We're seeing the poverty rate go down steadily, and that is a very good thing."
She added, "The Great Recession cast a long shadow on the finances of many households. We see some evidence that is improving."
Poverty rates fell in 23 states last year. No state saw a poverty rate increase. Poverty rates ranged from a low of 8.2 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 22 percent in Mississippi.
Young adults • New questions in Census surveys for the first time show the living arrangement of adults. The latest data reveal that 28.6 percent of Utah's young adults, ages 18 to 34, lives with parents.
"That's amazing," Perlich said. "I knew it was a trend nationally, but it surprises me that it's that high in Utah."
Nationally, 34.1 percent of that age group lives with parents.
Perlich said it was a trend that grew during the recession when many young adults could not find jobs and moved back home or never left. She said that may be continuing, bolstered by high housing costs that make it difficult for many to move out on their own.
In Utah, the most common living arrangement for 18-to-34-year-olds was living with a spouse (36.2 percent).
Also, 13.8 percent lived with nonrelatives, 11.2 percent lived with relatives other than parents, 6 percent lived with an unmarried partner and 4.2 percent lived alone.
Income equality • Utah continues to have less income inequality among its residents than any other state, according to the new estimates.
That is measured by the Gini index. A score of 0.0 is perfect equality in income distribution. A score of 1 indicates total inequality where one household has all the income.
Utah's score is 0.425, lowest among the states. The national score is 0.482.
"We have fewer people who are extremely rich and fewer people who are very poor. It's been the case for a long time. We're more of a middle-income place," Perlich said. But Utah has become a little more unequal over time, like the rest of the nation.
Mayne said its diverse economy helps avoid income inequality. "We have opportunities for job improvement that ensure that inequality is kept low," because people can shop for other jobs and are not trapped.
Health insurance • In 2015, 10.5 percent of Utahns lacked health-care coverage. Nationally, 9.4 percent of Americans were uninsured.
The number has dropped in recent years after passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." In 2010, 15.3 percent of Utahns were uninsured; in 2014, 12.5 percent were.
Even with the ACA, a gap occurs between qualifying for its subsidies or Medicaid among some low-income people.
The Legislature fought for years about how to cover the gap and whether to accept temporary federal assistance to help extend Medicaid to all people in it.
It voted this year to expand Medicaid coverage to about 16,000 of the poorest Utahns, but those estimates have since been reduced to about 10,000.
Democrats complained that left behind close to 100,000 Utahns.