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The Wasatch Front

The name "Utah" is derived from the Ute Indian language, meaning "people of the mountains." Utah is known for its geological diversity, ranging from snowcapped mountains, to well-watered river valleys, to rugged, stony deserts. Erosion and climate have exposed diverse geological structures in Utah's landscape, making it a wonderland for geologists and tourists, as well. Over two billion years' accumulation of rock has created a varied landscape of hills, mountains, canyons, and valleys. The Rocky Mountain peaks soar to over 13,000 feet elevation. Lake Bonneville, which covered a good portion of the state 15,000 years ago, has left behind shells in the mountains and salt flats in Bonneville Desert. Archaeologists have found a plethora of fossils and dinosaur bones and footprints.

Utah's Resources

Utah's resources include over five hundred types of minerals. Bingham Canyon mine is one of the largest copper mines in the world. Mines near Topaz Mountain produce most of the world's beryllium. Central and Eastern Utah produce coal, natural gas, oil shale, tar sand, and uranium. There are also ample deposits of salt and phosphates. Construction materials and materials for making cement also abound—gravel, sand, and limestone. Utah's powdery snow is among its most profitable resources. Ski resorts in the mountains bring in income for the state from tourism.

Indian History

Utah's Indians have a colorful history. From 10,000 B.C. to 400 A.D. a Desert Archaic Culture flourished in Utah made up of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers. After this, the Fremont culture incorporated cultivation of squash, maize, and beans. The Fremonts created sophisticated pottery and baskets, as well as ornamental sculpture in clay. After 400 A.D. the Anasazi Indians migrated from the south into the Great Basin of Utah. They built masonry dwellings in the form of large apartment complexes and also cultivated vegetable crops. Around 1300 A.D., the Anasazi left the Great Basin. After 1000 A.D. the Numic peoples were comprised of four main groups, the Northern Shoshone, the Western Shoshone, the Southern Paiutes (or Goshutes), and the Utes. These were the Uto Aztecans. (There are similarities between Utu Aztecan language and semitic tongues.) Around 1700 Navajos moved into the territory. At the time of the Mormon Migration into Utah Territory (1847), about 20,000 Indians lived in Utah. Things stayed relatively peaceful until Mormon settlements expanded from Salt Lake Valley into Utah Valley to the south. After that, there were disagreements between the native Indians and the settlers. There were times when the Indian populations could barely feed themselves and staged food raids against the pioneers. In 1861 President Abraham Lincoln established the Uintah Valley Indian Reservation. Governmental relations with the Indians were fraught with difficulty over the years. In 1881 Indians from Colorado were moved onto Utah Indian reservations. Currently, the Indian population of Utah is just below the 20,000 mark, with most Indians living among city populations.


The first Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah with Brigham Young in 1847, settling in the Great Salt Lake Valley. For the next ten years colonization continued with new settlements being established along the Wasatch Front (the north-south valley slung along the west side of the Rockies' Wasatch Range). Some of the settlements were established under the direction of Church leaders, but many were private ventures. As the Mormon Church won converts abroad, immigrants began arriving from Europe. Self-sufficiency was greatly encouraged, and private ventures into mining and agriculture were a benefit to the area economy. Coal was discovered in 1859. On the 10th of May, 1869, the Trans-continental Railroad was completed with the Golden Spike ceremony (the joining of the two branches of the railroad) at Promontory Point in Summit County. Of great benefit to the colonization effort was the construction of an extending railroad route to Salt Lake City, and then from Ogden to Salt Lake. By the 1870's there began to be a slight problem with over-population.

Utah's Population

Utah City

Utah became a state on January 4, 1896. It was the 45th state admitted to the union. By 1900, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ceased calling on its members to gather, suggesting that members build up congregations of Saints in their home countries. Immigration and settlement slowed after that decision. However, because of the high birth rate among Mormons, and the highly desirable living conditions in Utah, the population of the State has continued to grow, especially in very recent years. St. George, Utah, was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States from 2000-2005, with Utah being the sixth fastest growing state overall in 2006.

Approximately 88% of Utah's 2,500,000 people, known as "Utahns," live in an urban concentration with Salt Lake City as the center, known as the Wasatch Front. In contrast, vast expanses of the state are nearly uninhabited, making the population the sixth most urbanized in the U.S. Meanwhile, Utah is also known for being one of the most religiously homogeneous states in the Union, with approximately 72% of its inhabitants claiming membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the end of 2006 there were 1,789,707 members in 518 stakes, 4,231 wards, and 349 branches. There were 5 missions and 1 district.

The state is a center of transportation, information technology and research, government services and mining as well as a major tourist destination for outdoor recreation. Utah has a long tradition of resourcefulness and hard work, as reflected in its state motto, "Industry."

2010 Census Studies

The percentage of the Utah population that is Mormon gets lower each year, with 2010 hovering around 62%. However, the LDS population still influences the lifestyle and therefore the statistics of the state. Census information found the following:

  • Utah had 81 children for every 1,000 women during the year, compared with a national average of 58.
  • 87% of babies born in Utah are born in wedlock, with the national average being 70%.
  • Utah people tend to marry younger, stay married, and have larger families than the rest of the U.S.
  • Utah had the third-lowest rate of mothers living in poverty at 15.2 percent. Across the country, nearly a quarter of the women giving birth were living in poverty.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reacted to the data by pointing to church proclamations that say marriage and fidelity are essential to God's plan and that families are ordained to give children the bonds of matrimony." [1]


Utah Desert

A 2010 study showed that Utah was still among the top ten healthiest states in the U.S. for health and medical care, although Utah has a relatively low number of primary care physicians. That about 60% of the state's population is Mormon, making the incidence of tobacco and alcohol use low, has always been a factor in Utah's health profile. See the study here.

"Utah ranks among the top10 states on 10 of the 22 measures. Strengths include a low prevalence of smoking at 9.8 percent of the population, a low prevalence of binge drinking at 8.6 percent of the population, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations with 39.9 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, a low violent crime rate at 213 offenses per 100,000 population, a low infant mortality rate at 5.1 deaths per 1,000 live births and a low rate of cancer deaths at 142.0 deaths per 100,000 population."

In March, 2011, Self Magazine named the Provo/Orem area the happiest place to visit in the U.S. [2]

In May, 2011, Newsmax.com [3] published an article showing how Utah stands alone in upholding old-fashioned American values. The article suggested that combative evangelical Christians should bury the hatchet and embrace Mormon presidential candidates. Following are some facts and statistics quoted by the article:

  • "It has the lowest child poverty rate. And while it has the highest birth rate it has the lowest number of teen pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births. Comparing Utah to the rest of the nation is like comparing the United States to the Third World. Outside of Utah, 33 percent of all children in America are now born to unmarried parents. Utah is an island of American traditional values in practice."
  • "While the American educational system continues in free fall, the high school graduation rates in Utah are astronomical. Utah spends a larger percentage of state dollars on education than any other in the nation."
  • "Self magazine labels Provo, Utah as the No. 1 healthiest city in for women. Stats on married members of the Latter Day Saints show that the divorce rate is 13 percent for any couple married for five years. Two of the other Republican candidates for president, favored by many evangelical leaders, have eight marriages between them."
  • "Nor is Utah bad for men. It has the nation's lowest rates of cancer and heart disease. It has the lowest amount of work days missed. It has the lowest per capita rate of people in prison. And it is highest in the nation in charitable giving by the wealthy. According to Newsweek, Utah is first in the U.S. in households with personal computers." (Read more on Newsmax.com: Romney, Huntsman Show Mormons Gaining in Importance for 2012. [4])
  • Utah is a healthy state, with the Provo-Orem area among America's healthiest. [5]
  • The American Community Survey (U.S. Census Bureau) in 2011 showed the following:
  • Utah still has the nation’s largest households, highest fertility rate, lowest median age, youngest age at marriage and most stay-at-home moms.
  • The survey showed that Utah's population was still predominantly white, with White » U.S. 74.2 percent, Utah 88.8 percent; Hispanic/Latino • U.S. 16.4 percent, Utah 13 percent; Black • U.S. 12.6 percent, Utah 1 percent; Asian • U.S. 4.8 percent, Utah 1.9 percent; American Indian/Alaska Native • U.S. 0.8 percent. Utah 1.2 percent; Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander • U.S. 0.2 percent, Utah 0.9 percent.
  • High school graduation » U.S. 85.6 percent, Utah 90.6 percent; Bachelor’s degree or higher • U.S. 28.2 percent, Utah 29.3 percent.
  • Less than $100,000 annually » U.S. 80 percent, Utah 80.9; $200,000 or more • U.S. 3.9 percent, Utah 2.8 percent. [6]
In December 2011 the Milken Institute named three Utah cities, Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden, to its top 25 places to do business in the U.S.A. The smaller Utah city of Logan was named #1 among small cities for doing business. [7] The Best-Performing Cities index ranked the nation's 200 large metropolitan areas on measures including job, wage and technology performance. Salt Lake City ranked sixth, Provo ranked ninth and Ogden ranked 15th in the top 25.
In spring of 2012 the Provo-Orem area and the small city of Heber were named in the top ten nationwide for growth.
"The Heber City micropolitan area, for example, grew by 3.8 percent — or four times faster than the national rate. That made Heber the seventh fastest-growing such area in the nation. Meanwhile, the Provo-Orem metropolitan area grew by 2.7 percent, or three times the national average. It also finished as the nation’s seventh fastest-growing metropolitan area. Metro St. George landed at No. 11 out of 366 metropolitan areas nationally with 2.6 percent growth. Metro Salt Lake City was No. 40 at 1.9 percent. Logan was No. 64 at 1.7 percent. Ogden-Clearfield was No. 77 at 1.6 percent. [8]
Utah has the lowest income inequality in the United States. Read more here.
The Provo-Orem area in Utah was named as the fourth most competitive metro area for jobs in the US in 2012. [9]
Released in 2012, a U.S. federal alcohol use report shows that Utah teens drink less than youth in any other state. [10] Utah also has the lowest percentage of adult drinkers.
In 2013 the Improvement Center released its findings for the best states and cities in various categories. It listed Ogden, Utah, at No. 5 in the category of highest median income. For the best place to raise a family, Provo was third and Ogden was eighth. For best careers, Provo was first in the nation and Ogden sixth. Salt Lake City was also the fourth-best city for young professionals. [11]
2013 study — Utah is the 4th happiest state in America. [12]
In 2013 Forbes rated the Provo/Orem, Salt Lake City, and Ogden areas at the top of the charts for jobs and economic well-being and advancement. These cities came out on top, measured against all American cities by size, in several different ways. Read more....
Provo-Orem area ranked 11th in nation for high-tech start-ups. [13]
Utah students earn the highest ACT scores in the nation. [14]
WallStreet.com -- Utah is one of the richest and upwardly mobile states in America, ranking 13th:
  • Median household income: $57,049
  • Population: 2,855,287 (17th lowest)
  • Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
  • Pct. below poverty line: 12.8% (15th lowest)
Utah had the 10th-lowest poverty rate in the country in 2012. The gap between the rich and poor was also among the smallest in the country. In the Salt Lake City area, more children have upward economic mobility than in any other large urban area. Utah’s has one of the healthiest labor markets in the country, with the the state’s unemployment rate falling from 14th lowest in the U.S. in 2011 to 10th lowest in 2012. Utah's median household income in 2014 went up modestly but the median income was among the highest in the country.

At the end of 2013 Utah was named as the 2nd best state for its drivers (even though Utahns complain about the drivers all the time), and then named the 5th best-run state in America:

By several measures, Utah had one of the stronger economies in the country in 2012. The state ranked fifth in exports per capita, and GDP growth was among the highest. The unemployment rate was just 5.7 percent, compared to a national rate of 8.1 percent.
According to the Tax Foundation, Utah has one of the most business-friendly tax policies in the country. The state's residents also have a relatively good quality of life. The state was among America's safest last year, with just 205.8 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Educational attainment was also strong, with 91 percent of residents over the age of 25 holding a high school diploma.
Utah received the top credit rating from both Standard & Poor's and Moody's, with the latter reasoning that the state has responsible fiscal management and strong economic fundamentals. [15]

Utah's median household income was listed as $57,049 (13th highest), which is interesting, because just a few weeks prior, MSNBC had listed Utah as one of America's poorest states when looking at per capita income. Utahns have large families, and great universities, attracting many youth to the state. Thus, per capita income looks low, but household income is high. The per capita study showed images of poor housing for the poor states it listed, but for Utah, had to resort to a boarded up and abandoned pioneer house.

Also in 2013 conservative Utah's traditional marriage stance, upheld by a huge majority in a popular vote, was overturned by a federal judge without a stay for appeals, suddenly making gay marriage legal in the state. Gay couples were awaiting the decision and turned out immediately to pick up marriage licenses. Most Mormons, however, and other conservative citizens felt side-swiped and violated. Just before the federal decision that Utah's traditional marriage laws were unconstitutional (opening the way for other states' laws to be overturned), the State had made a decision on polygamy, which has been illegal in Utah since 1890. Deciding not to intrude on the sexual lives of its citizens, but upholding its bigamy laws, Utah decided that a man can have multiple "wives" as long as he is only married to one of them. Thus, the others are essentially live-in mistresses in the eyes of the law, but not in an illegal living arrangement. This was counted as a victory for polygamous families in Utah, and for the government, which could now focus on illegal behavior of some polygamous families, such as welfare fraud.

A 2014 report on the appeal of Utah's leaders to federal courts over its right to uphold traditional marriage cited the following statistics:

The brief states, “Whatever the effectiveness of traditional marriage laws in other states, Utah's marriage laws and policies are achieving remarkable results. As Prof. Price affidavit demonstrates, Utah has the nations lowest percentage of unwanted births – 19.4% less than half the national average of 41%. Utah also ranks first in the percentage of children being raised by both parents from birth until age 17–78.6% compared with the national average of 60.5%. This no doubt explains why the cost to Utah taxpayers associated with children live in other arrangements is among the lowest in the nation. But far more important is the benefit to children themselves”
"’Compared to children born in all the states, a child born in Utah has the best chance of knowing and being reared by his or her biological married mother and father.’ That fact also likely explains why Utah has a very small percentage of its children growing up in poverty-15%, the fourth lowest in the nation, compared to a national average of 23%. It also likely explains why Utah children, even in the lowest income households, have one of the highest rates of upward mobility.” [16]

Utah is America's second most religious state, with Mississippi being the first. [17] Thus reported a Gallup poll released in early February 2014. "The most religious states still tend to be clustered in the South, though Utah — with its large population of Mormons, typically the most religious of any denomination — stands out as an exception and ranks No. 2 in religiosity, according to Gallup." Sixty percent of Utah's population consider themselves "very religious," in that religion plays an important part in their life and they attend religious services on a regular basis. About 62% of the state's population is LDS. "The rankings [were] based on more than 174,000 phone interviews conducted nationwide throughout 2013 as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey. The results were weighted to be representative of each state's adult population by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity and education, based on Census data, Gallup officials said."

In early 2014 an expert called Utah the "envy of the Nation" because of Utah's alcohol consumption policies.

Utah has the lowest number of alcohol-related traffic deaths per capita in the country. It has the lowest prevalence of binge drinking among those 18 and older in the country. Underage drinking rates are half the national average.
"My attitude about alcohol in Utah is, I wouldn't mess with success," said David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
From a public health standpoint, he said, Utah is the "envy of the nation." [18]

Under discussion is the section of Utah's liquor laws that mandate restaurants mix drinks out of the sight of customers and only serve alcohol with food. For tourists, these restrictions can be problematic, and some Utah lawmakers think changing these restrictions can be done without a negative effect upon Utah's safe drinking record.

In its statement, the LDS Church said each of the four components that distinguish restaurants from bars is essential in guarding against overconsumption, underage drinking and DUI. "Why would we want to risk losing any of those benefits?" Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in the statement.

In February 2014, MSN Real Estate published a piece on the fastest growing cities in America. [19] Two of the 10 cities are in Utah -- Ogden and Salt Lake City. Ogden was the 7th fastest growing (median pay $56,000 and unemployment at 4.03% with a growth rate of 2.05%), and Salt Lake was the 5th fastest growing American city (median pay $62,200, unemployment at 4%, and growth rate of 1.33%).

Utah had the lowest rate of alcohol-related deaths over a recent five-year period among 11 states that participated in new federal study released in early 2014. [20] over a recent five-year period among 11 states that participated in the new federal study.

Utah has America's second-best drivers. [21] However, Utah drivers complain about Utah drivers a lot.

Gallup-Healthways released the results of a poll in March 2014 which shows the Provo/Orem area of Utah as #1 in over-all well-being of its residents in all of America. [22] The study focused on 189 areas in the U.S.

The Provo metro area received the best score of any area in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. One major reason was that respondents had extremely positive evaluations of their lives. Only Ann Arbor, Mich., residents gave more positive evaluations of their present lives, and nowhere were people more likely to be optimistic about their lives in the next five years.
Residents were also extremely emotionally healthy. More than 95 percent said they had felt happy for much of the preceding day, again more than in any other metro area. This may be due in part to the fact that more than three-quarters of those surveyed said they learned something new every day, the most in the nation.
Also likely helping residents to enjoy their lives: Provo had one of the lowest crime rates in the nation in 2012. And its 4 percent unemployment rate as of December was also among the lowest in the nation. [23]

Utah was named the 13th most innovative state in 2014 for the following reasons: Utah ranked as the 13th most innovative state, based on these factors [24]:

  • STEM professionals as a percentage of state population: 2.06 percent
  • Science and tech degree holders as a percentage of state population: 6.28 percent
  • Utility patents granted as a percentage of U.S. total: 0.96 percent
  • State government R&D spending as a percentage of U.S. total: 2.45 percent
  • Gross state product per employed person: $86,905
  • Three-year change in productivity: 3.46 percent
  • Public tech companies as a percentage of all public companies based in the state: 22.58 percent

Forbes Magazine released a study on the Ten Best Cities to Raise a Family in April 2014. [25] Two of those cities are in Utah — Provo, at #10 and Ogden at #3. Ogden's crime rate is one of the lowest in the country. The criteria used were as follows: Median household income (data from Census Bureau); Cost of Living Index (Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness); Housing affordability (the percentage of homes in the area affordable to those making the local median income, via the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo); The percentage of residents who own their homes (Census Bureau); Average commuting delays (Texas Transportation Institute); Crime-rate rankings (FBI via CQ Press); Local school quality (greatschools.org).

A Gallup Poll released in April 2014 shows that Utahns love their state. [26] Only Montana and Alaska had more loyal citizens.

Utah achieves the nation's top ACT scores for the second year in a row. "A total of 12 states, including Utah, tested all high school juniors in 2014, up from nine states in 2013. Despite the increased competition, Utah stayed on top with an average composite score of 20.8, according to data released Wednesday by ACT. The state fell below the national average of 21, but educators point out that where participation is not universal, college-bound students typically self-select to take the ACT, resulting in a potentially inflated score. The ACT reported that nationally, 57 percent of students took the test in 2014, compared to the 100 percent participation of Utah and the other 11 full-participation states. 'What makes this report so significant is that it includes all Utah students...'" [27]

In December 2015, WanderBat ranked the 40 best ski resorts in North America and included six of Utah's resorts: Park City was rated 5th, Deer Valley 7th, Canyons Resort 10th, Snowbird 11th, Alta 21st, and Snow Basin 23rd.[28] MSN ranked Park City at the top of thirteen cities that outdoor adventurers should move to immediately.[29]

MSN Money ranks Utah as the #1 state for business in 2016. Utah finished in the top half of each of the ten categories of competitiveness, with an overall score of 1,598 out of 2,500 points. In 2015 Utah ranked third. Utah's best category ranking was #3 in economy; it's worst ranking was #24 in access to capital, although the ranking was still in the top half.

According to a report by the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy, very few states require adequate financial literacy coursework for high school graduation. Five states get an A, and Utah tops the list with an A+. Utah requires that educators teaching this course obtain a specific endorsement in general financial literacy and provides its educators with tools, resources, and many professional development opportunities. General financial literacy is a funded mandate.[30]

In studies reported by MSN (2015), Utah is the #6 fastest growing state and the third most peaceful.[31] Utah's growth is due to a high birth rate; and also boasts the lowest death rate in the country[32]. The state's healthy economy is a key factor in potential new residents, and Utah is home to four Fortune 1000 companies, the largest of which is the Huntsman chemical corporation. The number of nonfarm payrolls in the state grew by 4.3%, the fastest growth rate in the country. Meanwhile, Utah’s 3.5% unemployment rate was the third lowest.[33]

A report released by WalletHub in 2015 named Utah as the happiest state in the nation. The study analyzed the residents of every state based on emotional and physical well-being, work environment, community, and recreational activities. Utah ranked first for the highest volunteerism rate and lowest rate of divorce. Utahns work the lowest number of hours per week, and Utah ranked number one for 'work environment', 'community environment and recreational activities', and came in fourth for 'emotional and physical well being," earning the state the top spot.[34]

Also in 2015, Forbes rated Utah the #10 best state to make a living.[35] With its rapidly growing technology sector, Utah County, including Lehi, Provo, and Orem, are nicknamed Silicon Slopes.[36] Utah saw the fastest job growth in 2015.[37] A 2015 study out of Harvard University ranks counties in the United States based on opportunity for upward mobility. The data suggests that kids who grow up in Utah may be at an economic advantage over kids in other areas.[38]

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