SALT LAKE CITY — Utah tops the nation for family prosperity, a new report shows.
A joint project by the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Sutherland Institute found the Beehive State has a large lead over the second-ranked state and the national average in the Family Prosperity Index.
The index measures more than 50 economic and social factors that show how well families are doing, including but not limited to marriage and divorce rates, crime rates, sexually transmitted disease rates and household income.
“Of all the awards and accolades Utah has received, this may very well be the most significant," said Sutherland President Boyd Matheson. "While Utah has long recognized family as a critical social engine, this report illustrates the power of the family as an economic engine."
Lawmakers would be wise to recognize that just as a strong economy helps families, strong families strengthen economies, he said.
Utah's Family Prosperity Index score has increased by 3.6 percent over the last five indexes — from 7.12 in 2012 to 7.38 in 2016. The national average is 5. Although the study is being released for the first time, it looked at past years to bring perspective to the index, said Derek Monson, Sutherland public policy director. The intent now is to update it annually.
Matheson said the study is an attempt to go beyond economic measurements such as job growth, unemployment rates and GDP.
"This really gets down to the family level," he said.
Monson said the index is more meaningful than others out there.
Rather than measuring and ranking a stand-alone niche of Utah’s economy that many never see or experience, the index looks at whether Utah’s economic prosperity is reaching families, and how families are driving the state's economic prosperity, he said.
Monson said it could help lawmakers recognize the ramifications changing tax policy, business regulations or criminal justice laws have for families.
Six major categories — economics, demographics, family self-sufficiency, family structure, family culture and family health — make up the Family Prosperity Index. Utah led in every category except for economics, where North Dakota, the second-ranked state overall, came in first.
Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota round out the top five overall. Delaware, Mississippi, Rhode Island, West Virginia and New Mexico were the bottom five.
The study also identified areas of concern, such as Utah's higher-than-average suicide and drug overdose rates. It also raises alarms about negative trends in child poverty, violent crime rate, property crime rate, the level of married taxpayers and unwed childbirth in Salt Lake County.
"Clearly, Utah has room to improve in its most populous county when it comes to the related issues of drug use and suicide, and these are critically important things that demand our attention," Monson said.
"But Utahns can be proud in our understanding that we lead the nation economically because we lead the nation in how we create, build and devote ourselves to our families, and by extension our communities."
The index provides a blueprint for creating an environment for families to flourish, and Utah has set the standard for the rest of the nation, according to American Conservative Union Foundation chairman Matt Schlapp.
"I hope leaders across the country will come to understand the factors driving Utah’s success and use the FPI as a tool to expand prosperity in their own states," he said.