Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Kay Lotulelei reads with her daughters Caroline, Meleanna and Levila at their home in Midvale. The Lotuleleis' nine children help keep Utah No. 1 for family size.

Kay Lotulelei says when she drops off some of her nine children at Brighton High School or the private Waterford School, others often "are open-mouthed. They think, 'That's quite a lot.' Most of their families average only one or two kids."

Of course, Utah is well-known for having lots of babies and big families. And those like the Lotuleleis — or even families with "merely" four or five children — have helped Utah again reach statistical heights that no other state comes near in a new census survey released today.

It shows Utah has the nation's largest household size; both its men and women marry at the youngest ages in America; a higher ratio of its women give birth each year than in any other state; more of its households include children; more households are led by a married couple; and more of its children have at least one stay-at-home parent.

The Lotuleleis of Midvale give faces to such numbers. Their household has 11 people. Husband Tevita was 25 when they married, and wife Kay was 23, about average for Utah, but young for most Americans. Their five girls and four boys range in age from 17 to 4. Kay is a stay-at-home mom.

"Actually, I'm more of a stay-in-the-car mom," because she drives her children to so many activities, Kay says.

"Utah is indeed different," said University of Utah research economist Pam Perlich, noting that the state often ranks at the extreme of ranges in categories that measure family characteristics in the 2007 American Community Survey, an annual survey of millions of Americans by the Census Bureau.

Some such categories include:

• Biggest average household size, 3.11 people in Utah (19 percent larger than average).

• Youngest age at first marriage both for men (25.2) and women (22.8). The national average is 27.7 for men and 26 for women.

• Highest ratio of women giving birth in the past year (7.9 births per 100 women ages 15 to 50). That is 44 percent higher than the national average of 5.5.

• Lowest percentage of children under age 6 with all parents in the work force, 50.3 percent. The national average is 61.7 percent.

• Highest percentage of households that are married-couple families, 62.3 percent. That is 25 percent higher than the national average of 49.7 percent.

• Highest percentage of households that are married-couple families that have children under 18 years old, 32.4 percent (compared to a national average of 21.4 percent).

• Percent of households with one or more person under age 18, 43.1 percent (or 25 percent higher than average).

Perlich said, "It is quite clear there is a cultural component driving the higher fertility rate" in Utah, namely its high percentage of residents who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which puts strong emphasis on families.

She said similar numbers are found only in parts of some states in the West, such as southern Idaho, that also have many LDS members. "It is basically a Mormon culture corridor," she said.

Juliette Tennert, Utah state demographer, added, "The data are consistent with a culture that emphasizes the importance of family: Utahns marry at younger ages, have children at younger ages and have more children."

Besides the LDS influence, Perlich said Utah also is attracting a lot of immigrants — and they tend to move here during their childbearing years. That also contributes to larger family sizes and larger numbers of children. The Lotuleleis are examples. Both Kay and Tevita were born in Tonga, although Kay was raised in Utah. They are also LDS.

The new survey — which polls 250,000 Americans a month, or about 3 million over the year — has myriad other numbers that paint a picture of Utahns, from how much money they make to how much time they spend commuting, how many moved during the year, how much homes are worth and other data.

The survey estimated the median household income in Utah was $55,109 in 2007 — the 13th highest in the nation.

"We actually do really well on household income. But we do poorly if you look at per capita income," Perlich said.

She explained that teenagers work at higher rates in Utah than elsewhere, and when their income is added to their parents' earnings it results in high income per household. But because Utah has more children than average, when that household income is divided among all members, the per-person income is low. Initial data released did not include per capita income rankings, but did for households.

Men earn much more than women in Utah. Men who work full-time in Utah had a median wage of $43,035 (24th highest in the nation), but female full-time workers earned only $31,001 (33rd in the nation). "The gender gap remains," Perlich said.

The survey shows relatively few Utahns living in poverty or receiving public welfare. The state had the 43rd lowest rate of people living in poverty, 9.7 percent, and ranked No. 45 in the percent of households receiving cash public assistance, 1.3 percent.

Utahns are well-educated. They rank No. 6 for those age 25 and older who have completed high school, at 90.2 percent. They rank No. 18 for those with a bachelor's degree, 28.7 percent. But they rank No. 27, and are below national average, for those who have an advanced degree, 9.1 percent.

Utah does well with homeownership. It ranked No. 10 for the percent of housing units that are owner-occupied, 71.7 percent. It ranked No. 20 for the median value of owner-occupied homes, $218,700.

It ranked 24th in the nation for how much either homeowners or renters spend on housing each month — a median of $1,358 for home owners and $733 for renters.

Utahns are a mobile bunch. The survey said nearly one in five Utahns (18.2 percent) had moved to a new home or apartment in 2007. (Still, the survey said about two of every three Utahns are natives who were born in the state.)

Utahns don't spend as much time commuting to work as most Americans — just about 21.4 minutes, ranking 38th in the nation. The survey estimates that three of every four Utahns drive to work by themselves (ranking 35th in the nation), and just 2.4 percent commute using public transportation systems (ranking 19th in the nation).

The survey estimates that 90.2 percent of Utahns are white, the sixth highest such percentage in America. But Perlich warns that could be a bit deceiving, and that Utah is more diverse than that statistic may suggest.

"For example, if a person from Iraq comes to Utah as a refugee, they check off on the form that they are 'white' because there is no 'Middle Eastern' category. If you are from Bosnia or Serbia, you do the same. It is not the standard Hansen-Christiansen-Jensen whites that we have seen before. The state is now more complex," she said.

One of seven Utahns (13.9 percent) speak a language other than English at home (ranking 20th highest in the nation). The survey reports about 8.2 percent of Utahns were born in a foreign country — and of those, 45.4 percent were born in Mexico.


E-mail: lee@desnews.com