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Diversity Report Details Racial, Ethnic And Gender Disparities In Utah

An illustration of a diverse group of stylish people standing together.
Angelina Bambina
A new report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute shows Utah’s minority populations are more likely than whites to have less income and wealth and higher rates of poverty and chronic diseases.

After a year marked by a pandemic and renewed calls for racial justice around the country, state leaders in Utah have acknowledged widespread racial, ethnic and gender disparities exist and are making pledges to address them.

In his One Utah Roadmap, Gov. Spencer Cox, committed to “creating initiatives that acknowledge this history of our state and nation [and] the disproportionate outcomes across systems.” Former Gov. Gary Herbert made a similar declaration last year.

A report released Thursday by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute aims to help guide those and future efforts by outlining significant disparities in economic, education, health and housing outcomes. In general, the report found Utah’s minority populations — with some exceptions — are more likely than the state’s white population to have less income and wealth, higher rates of poverty and chronic diseases as well as lower education levels.

The data may not be particularly surprising, given the long-standing inequalities highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic. But it is a crucial tool to create change, said Byron Russell, co-chair of the Utah Multicultural Commission.

“The data just shows us where we are,” Russell said. “It's very bluntly honest. And that capturing of data is the only way that we can truly measure where we want to be as a community.”
Byron Russell

Some of the largest disparities between races and ethnicities are economic. Poverty rates in Utah are highest for Black people and American Indians — one in four people in those communities experience poverty, the report said. Black families also have the lowest average household income of any race in the state, earning an average of $38,021 a year, compared to the statewide average of $75,780.

Only white people and Asian Americans have a higher median income than the state average, though Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders are not far behind.

Black and Hispanic people have the highest rates of being cost burdened by housing, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgages.

With the exception of Asian people, minority populations also have large disparities in some key education measures, such as third grade literacy, english and math proficiency and ACT scores.

The report does not examine causes behind disparities, but notes contributing factors could include things like discrimination, intergenerational wealth transfer, education level and family size.

There are some positive signs, however. Salt Lake City ranks highest among the largest metropolitan areas in the country in economic mobility, a measure of childrens’ ability to meet the national income distribution compared to their parents. Utah also has the lowest number of children in single-parent families, which some research suggests is strongly correlated with upward mobility.

Still, given the increasing diversity in the state — and country as a whole — the need to address systemic inequalities will only become more pressing, said Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.

“We are not going to go backwards, we are going to get more diverse,” Miller said. “We are going to have a demographic that shows the need for this, that we can help and do things in a positive way.”

Utah is the 34th most racially and ethnically diverse state in the nation, with 22% of the state identifying as other than non-Hispanic white. Forty percent of the state’s growth since 2010 has come from racial and ethnic minority populations, who are expected to account for one in three Utahns by 2060.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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