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The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Utah’s Demographic Changes and Immigration Politics

A Look at the State’s Emerging Communities of Color Before the Republican Primary

SOURCE: AP/George Frey

Bob Allen, center, takes voters' names as more than 100 people stand in line to vote at the Harmon building on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, February 5, 2008.

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In advance of Utah’s Republican primary today, here are 10 important facts about immigrants and people of color in the state that display their significant economic, cultural, and electoral power.

1. Communities of color are driving Utah’s population growth. The Latino share of Utah’s population grew by 90 percent from 2000 to 2010 and now comprises 3 percent of the overall population. The Asian* share of the population grew from 1.7 percent to 2 percent over the same period.

2. The fast population growth of children of color, especially Latinos, contributes to a large racial generational gap. In 2011 almost 29 percent of babies born in Utah were children of color. Latino children accounted for 11 percent of the state’s overall child population in 2000, while by 2010, 16.5 percent of children in Utah were Latino—an increase of 50 percent.

3. Naturalized citizens and Latinos make up an important demographic for the upcoming presidential election in November. More than 57,000 voters in Utah are “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants—and there are more than 71,000 eligible but unregistered Latino voters.

4. Latinos are the fastest-growing group within the Mormon Church. In Utah 58 percent of the population currently identifies as Mormon, and in the United States as a whole, Latinos now make up the fastest-growing segment within the Mormon Church. Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, also estimates that 70 percent of Latino converts in the state are undocumented.

5. Utah is 1 of 12 states that offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. This type of law benefits Utah economically, as students with a degree are more productive, are less likely to need government assistance, and help maintain Utah’s strong state economy.

6. Utah’s approach to immigration policy recognizes the economic contributions of its immigrants. In 2011 Republican Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah signed a series of immigration bills into law including a guest-worker bill and an Arizona-style anti-immigrant enforcement bill. This approach differs from the enforcement-only measures taken up by states such as Arizona and Alabama, and follows the Utah Compact, a set of guiding principles for discussing humane immigration policy. 

7. Immigrant communities contribute significantly to the state’s economy. In a 2006 study the Institute of Public and International Affairs at the University of Utah found that Mexican immigrants in Utah owned property valued at a total of $984 million, and that the purchasing power of Mexican immigrants exceeded $1 billion. 

8. Communities of color as entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars to the state’s economy. The purchasing power of Latinos in Utah totaled $6.4 billion in 2010—an increase of 765.5 percent since 1990. The buying power of Asian Americans totaled $1.9 billion—an increase of 460 percent since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

9. Latino-owned businesses are booming in Utah. Between 2002 and 2007 the number of Latino-owned businesses in the state jumped by 78 percent—one of the fastest growth rates in the nation.

10. Undocumented immigrants contribute to Utah’s economy by paying state and local taxes. In 2010 undocumented immigrants paid $105.4 billion in state and local taxes, according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.

Vanessa Cárdenas is Director of Progress 2050 and Angela Maria Kelley is Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress.

* We use the term Asian when referring to racial identification, such as Census Bureau data that distinguishes between race and ethnicity and collects information on all United States residents regardless of their nationality. We use the term Asian American when referring to community groups that self-identify as such to describe their national identity.

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