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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Members of the Oliphant family — eight children strong — plus a family friend play on the trampoline at their West Valley home Sunday.

Ask Adrian Oliphant what life is like with an extra-large family, and he half jokes, "I don't know. I only have eight children."

The West Valley resident adds that he grew up in a family of 11 children, "so having eight never hit me as being that big."

He's not alone in Utah, which again, according to new census survey data for 2008 released today, has the nation's largest family size (3.76 people, compared to 3.22 nationally).

That's not all. Utah has the nation's youngest median age (thanks to all those children); most stay-at-home moms; highest rate of women who gave birth last year; the people who marry the youngest; the most households headed by married couples; and the most households with children.

While Utah has led on such family-matter data for decades — thanks largely to the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the state is trending away from being so different. It is slowly becoming more like the rest of America.

"We still have the largest family sizes, but they are trending down. We have the highest fertility rate, but it's trending down. We have the youngest median age, but it's going up. We're about a generation and a half or two behind the nation," said University of Utah research economist Pam Perlich.

Utah state demographer Juliette Tennert adds, "We are becoming more and more like the nation. But I do think we'll always maintain that difference at some level. It's going to be a really long time before Utah would match the nation."

Perlich echoes that, saying, "Every small area has demographics that are different than the entire nation, but we're all sort of being pulled by national trends."

For example, when Oliphant was asked if he and his wife married young, He said, "No, I was 23 and my wife was 20." That was near average when they married in the early '80s, but median ages for first marriages in Utah have crept up since then.

It is now 26.1 years old for men, and 23.5 for women. As recently as the 2000-03 period, it was 23.9 for men and 21.9 for women.

Another example of change in Utah is the rising median age, which has reached 28.7 years old. In 2000, it was 27.1. So Utah's median age has jumped by 1.6 years in just eight years.

Yet another example is the number of households headed by married couples in Utah. In 2008, 60.5 percent of Utah households were headed by married couples, the highest in the nation. But that was down from 62.3 percent in 2007, a difference the census says is statistically significant despite possible sampling error margins.

That dwindling of married-couple households came as Utah was ranked No. 5 in the nation for 2008 for the number of divorces during the year per 1,000 women: 14.0, well above the national ratio of 10.5.

So why is Utah trending to become more like the overall nation?

"Migration is a big part of it," Perlich said. "Until recently, we've been creating more jobs at a faster rate than other places," so Utah had been attracting people from around the nation and globe.

Perlich adds, "When people move in for economic reasons, they're bringing characteristics from outside the area in."

Also, she said, "the median age is going up because of the aging of the baby boom generation because it is an enormous cohort moving across time. And there had been until recently some retirement migration to the state," with people returning to Utah after retirement. "Also, people are just living longer," she said.

Despite the trends making it more like the rest of the nation, Utah is still unique when it comes to family matters, often ranking either No. 1 or dead last among the states for data from fertility to marriage and family size.

Perlich, like most demographers, say the LDS Church influence is a key reason why.

"We're the international headquarters of a significant religion, so that culture will always leave its signature demographics on the area," she said.

Tennert said, "We have a unique state. Utah is a very family-centered state. Many Utah people place a special focus on family, and so you do see we tend to marry at younger ages and have more children. The influence of the LDS Church definitely plays a role there, but many who are not members of the church share that focus on families."

She added, "People move to Utah to take advantage of a certain lifestyle, or a certain quality of life. So people may be attracted by that."

In areas besides family matters, new data from the Census' American Community Survey, which surveys about 1 of every 40 U.S. households a year, shows Utah is becoming more diverse, and that it is doing better than the nation in many economic measures.

For example, it shows 91 percent of Utahns are white, ranking No. 8 among the states. Still, that is down from 98.1 percent in 1960.

Much of that also is from immigration. "In 2008, Utah was the fastest-growing state in the country," earlier data showed, said Jerry O'Donnell, a census analyst in Denver. "Much of that is international. Among foreign-born residents in Utah, 60 percent are from Mexico and Latin America."

Still, Utah ranks only 21st among states for the percentage of its residents who are foreign-born: 8.3 percent. It ranks No. 19 for the number of residents who speak a language other than English at home: 14 percent.

On a happy note, the median value of homes in Utah was higher than the national average ($236,000 vs. $197,600), while Utahns spent much less than average on monthly housing costs, and the percentage of new homes was higher than average.

The median household income in Utah ranked No. 15 among the states at $56,633, higher than the $52,029 average nationally. But median wages for individual workers was lower than the national average.

Perlich says that's because of Utah's large families, where more people in a home (including older teenagers) tend to work, so household income is high while per-person income can still be low.

The median wage for a man who worked full time in Utah was $45,028 (just under the national average for men), while the wage for women was $31,183 (well under the national average for women). It shows that a wage gap between men and women in Utah remains.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com