Immigration to Utah
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Utah is known for its diverse geography ranging from river valleys to rugged, stony deserts to snowcapped mountains making it a major destination for tourist travel. Utah is also known for being one of the most religiously homogeneous states in the US with nearly 61% of its residents claiming membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 88 percent of Utah’s inhabitants live in an urban concentration centered around Salt Lake City leaving much of the state nearly uninhabited. Utah’s economy is primarily based in agriculture and industry. The main agricultural commodities produced include: cattle, dairy products, poultry hay and turkeys. The main industrial sectors include: machinery, aerospace, mining, food processing, electric equipment and tourism.
Immigration to Utah
As of 2006, it is estimated (FAIR) that the immigrant population of Utah is 211,810 which equates to approximately 8.3% of the state’s population. The majority of immigrants are from Mexico (41.9%), Canada (4.9%) and Germany (3.2%). Vietnam, China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), U.K., Polynesia, El Salvador, Korea and Yugoslavia account for another 17.9% of the immigrants to Utah.
There has been an increase in the foreign-born population both through new immigrant residents in the state as well as through the children born to immigrants. It is estimated that the immigrant population and immigrant births are adding nearly 16,570 persons to Utah every year equating to 32.9% of the state’s overall population increase.
The 2000 Census reports 158,664 immigrant residents in Utah, the 20th highest in the US, and the 5th highest rate of increase in the country. This is an increase of 170.8% over the 1990 foreign-born population recorded at 58,600 immigrants. This increase is significantly higher than the 24.7% increase in the native-born population for the state of Utah.
An indication of the change in the immigrant population in Utah may be seen from the 2000 Census where the share of non-English speakers at home increased to 11.5% up from 7.8% recorded in 1990. Additionally, 41.7% of those who said they spoke a language other than English at home also said they spoke English less than very well. Utah’s naturalization rate of 30.4% is lower than the national average of 40.1% based upon data recorded during the 2000 Census. The data collected in the 2000 Census shows a significant drop in the 44.1% naturalization rate recorded in 1990 (national average was 40.3%), indicating an influx of new immigrants, including illegal immigrants.
Former migrant workers from Mexico are choosing to immigrate to Utah and become year-round workers in Utah’s meat packing industry. Pacific Islanders from Tonga are the fastest growing ethnic group in Utah where there are nearly 25,000 Tongans living near Salt Lake City. The educational level of Utah residents is overall above the US average according to data collected in the 2000 Census (with the exception of those with advanced degrees).
Educational Summary for Utah
- High school graduate: 87.7% (US Average 80.4%)
- Some college or more: 63.1% (US Average 51.8%)
- Bachelor’s degree or more: 26.1% (US Average 24.4%)
- Advanced degree: 8.3% (US Average 8.9%)
Illegal Immigration to Utah
As of 2007, FAIR estimates the state’s illegal alien population at about 125,000 persons which equates to less than approximately 4.9 percent of the overall population. The annual fiscal cost to Utah taxpayers for emergency medical care, education and incarceration projected by FAIR is currently $244 million and is estimated to rise to $417 million per year in 2010 and $727 million per year in 2020.
Utah Immigration Statistics
- Utah’s immigrant population increased by nearly 33.5% between 2000 and 2006.
- In 2005, housing authorities reported over 26,000 of Utah households to be crowded or severely crowded. Studies by the Urban Institute in 2001 indicate a rise in crowded housing often correlates with in increase in the number of immigrant residents.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 Utah’s unemployment rate was 3.2%, well below the national average of 5.0%.