Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE - By 2065, the Wasatch Front will be more populated, more youthful and more culturally diverse, according to Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is expected to surpass 5 million residents in less than 50 years, and that growth will also change the characteristics of the population, an economic analyst says.

By 2065, the Wasatch Front will be more populated, with more elderly and a more culturally diverse population, according to Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Speaking Thursday to an audience hosted by the Bank of Utah at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, she noted that while the state is experiencing its lowest fertility levels ever, the overall population continues to increase due to robust migration that brings thousands of new residents into the Beehive State every year.

"Over time, (there will be) more and more reliance on people moving in to take jobs," she said. "More and more of our population growth will be new people moving in rather than people here having extremely large families."

Those new residents will also be of varying ethnic and racial makeups, as well as more youthful, she said.

"(When) migrants come into an area, there is a burst of economic growth," she said. "Part of that is they tend to be young and they tend to have kids and they tend to be entrepreneurial and highly energetic."

She said in the absence of new people coming to Utah in the years ahead, the state would be much older, have a much smaller population and be less diverse.

Currently, the average Utah family is having 2.24 children per household, she said. "That's the lowest its ever been," she noted.

The level for fertility replacement rate is 2.1 children per household, she said. For the first time in history, Utah does not have the highest fertility rate, with South Dakota the current leader, she added.

Meanwhile, Perlich said as the population growth continues, the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City will become a major economic hub for the area along with the redevelopment occurring at the Point of the Mountain.

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"(Our research) sees the dynamic for residential and commercial development pushing further and further south into the southern part of Salt Lake County into Utah County, where we see major (growth) into the next 50 years," she said. "We see big growth in Wasatch, Tooele County and Juab County as the metropolitan area expands."

She said that in the coming years, the Wasatch Front will experience dense population expansion that will create a more integrated metropolitan area.

"Ultimately, 50 years out, there will be this integrated, global metropolitan area including adjacent 'ring' counties surrounding it," Perlich described. "We're talking 3.3 million people just in the four metropolitan Wasatch Front counties."