Why don’t Utahns have children and are having more children?

Join The Tribune and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute for a solution-focused conversation about the impact of declining birth rates in Utah.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Aside from child-focused celebrations like this July 4, 2023, children’s parade in Liberty Utah, Utah has slipped down the national fertility chart. An Aug. 24 community talk sponsored by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute will share data on this topic and discuss the reasons for fewer children in Utah’s future.

This story is part of the Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to finding solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

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In terms of fertility and birth rates, Utah has been the country’s leader for almost forever. Oversized families have influenced everything from minivan jokes to tax and budgetary policies to classrooms bursting at the seams.

But the times have changed. Although Utah remains the country’s youngest state and has the highest proportion of households of five or more, birth rates are declining. And fast. Utah now ranks fourth in terms of birth rate – behind South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska. The birth rate has fallen by almost 22% since 2010.

The Salt Lake Tribune and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute will examine the data surrounding this societal and cultural shift at their next event, Storytelling through Data, on August 24. The co-sponsored talk series focuses on data-driven, solution-focused dialogue critical to the quality of life in Utah.

Powered by data from the Gardner Institute, a lively question-and-answer conversation entitled “Why Don’t Utahns Have Children?” will explore the “whys” behind the concerns raised by reproductive-age Utahns about family planning.

Some reasons for postponing or choosing not to have children are more practical, namely cost: A 2022 study found that the cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 in the US are now nearly $311,000. Just think of childcare. A recent Tribune report shows that child care costs in Utah are expected to increase by 9% or more in the coming year as federal stabilization grants provided to day care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic dry up.

Different reasons? Fear for the future of the planet in the face of ongoing climate change? Living costs? Career needs and choices? One thing is certain: sustained changes in the number of children will have far-reaching implications for the state’s economy, employment, housing, education, the leisure sector, and more.

“It’s easy to forget how high childcare costs can be for young people,” said Tribune editor Lauren Gustus, who will moderate the discussion. “And that without housing or other worries. Let’s move this conversation and the possible solutions forward.”

The panel for the conversation includes:

— Emily Harris, senior demographer, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

– Derek Monson, Vice President for Policy, Sutherland Institute

– Emily Bell McCormick, Founder and CEO, The Utah Policy Project

The event will be held Thursday, August 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Thomas S. Monson Center, 411 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City. It’s free and open to the public, but you must register here to participate.

Other key takeaways from the Gardner Policy Institute data include:

– Declines in all states: The birth rate has declined in all states and divisions over the past decade. Intermountain West and Pacific division birth rates declined the fastest of all divisions.

— Utah falls from first to fourth: Utah’s fertility rate fell from highest to fourth-highest nationwide from 2010-2020, but remained highest in the Intermountain West. South Dakota, Nebraska, and North Dakota have higher birth rates than Utah.

— Utah’s decline was the seventh-fastest: Utah’s birth rate fell nearly 22%, the seventh-fastest decline in the country.

— Decline in fertility rates for ages 15-29: All divisions and regions of the country experienced a decrease in fertility for ages 15-17, 18-19, 20-24, and 25-29. This indicates a decline in teenage pregnancies, but also in the age groups considered to be the highest child-bearing years.

Justin Scaccy

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