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Not just Californians: New report outlines who is moving to Utah


Apartments and town houses on Traverse Mountain Boulevard in Lehi are pictured on Aug. 11, 2021. A new Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute report offers better insight to Utah's migration patterns between 2015 and 2019, as the state grew in population.

Apartments and town houses on Traverse Mountain Boulevard in Lehi are pictured on Aug. 11, 2021. A new Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute report offers better insight to Utah's migration patterns between 2015 and 2019, as the state grew in population. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah was the fastest-growing state between the 2010 and 2020 censuses largely because more people moved into the state than out of it.

Now a new University of Utah report is finally giving better clarity into where people are coming from when they move into the state.

While six California counties account for the 10 most origin locations for movers into Utah, Clark County, Nevada — home to Las Vegas — produced the plurality of net migrants into Utah between 2015 and 2019, according to a study published by the university's Kem G. Gardner Policy Institute Wednesday. In all, 3,916 Clark County residents moved to Utah over that four-year span.

It nudged out Maricopa County, Arizona, which produced 3,730 new residents in Utah. Los Angeles County, California, (3,714), King County, Washington, (2,273) and Madison County, Idaho, (2,098) rounded out the top five, according to the study. The remaining five counties in the top 10 were all in California, including the Anaheim, San Diego and San Jose areas.

The study is based on an analysis of several datasets, primarily the Census Bureau's 2015-2019 American Community Survey and adjoining migration flow files, in addition to previous calculations by the Gardner Policy Insititute. Emily Harris, the institute's senior demographer and the report's co-author, explains that the point of the study was to answer "the most frequently asked questions about Utah's migration patterns."

"Migration represents an increasingly important contributor to Utah's population growth as fertility rates and births decline," she and public policy analyst Heidi Prior wrote in the report. "When a county grows rapidly, it's almost certainly due to high levels of net in-migration."

The report mainly looks at where migrants are coming from and where Utah residents moving to.


The origin of Utah's in-migration


Utah gained an average of 121,000 new residents every year between 2015 and 2019, most of whom came from other U.S. states, according to the report. About four out of every five new residents came from within the U.S.

It also confirmed previous research that indicates people are moving to Utah from mostly other Western states, such as Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Texas and Florida are the main contributors among states outside of the region.

To no surprise, the researchers found that about 75% of out-of-state migrants ended up in either Davis, Salt Lake, Utah or Washington counties, as the Wasatch Front and southwest Utah growth. In fact, there were 20 states scattered across the U.S. that produced at least 1,000 annual migrants to the Wasatch Front between 2015 and 2019. This is where California stands out in the data, sending an average of 14,350 people to the region every year during that span.

But the origin list differs from region to region. The Gardner Policy Institute published a regional profile of all parts of the state to highlight these differences on Wednesday, as well.


  • Bear River (Box Elder, Cache and Rich Counties): International, Idaho, Arizona and California
  • Central Utah (Juab, Sanpete, Sevier, Millard, Piute and Wayne counties): Arizona, California, International, Colorado and Nevada
  • Southeast Utah (Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties): Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada
  • Southwest Utah (Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties): California, Arizona, Nevada, International and Washington
  • Uintah Basin (Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah counties): Colorado, Texas, California, Arizona and Oregon
  • Wasatch Back (Morgan, Summit and Wasatch counties): California, International, New York, Colorado and Georgia
  • Wasatch Front (Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah, and Weber counties): California, Idaho, Texas, Arizona and Washington


As for international migration, the report didn't specify exact counties, but about 28% of people moving into Utah from out of the country came from South America. That topped all regions, followed by Asia (24%), Europe (17%) and Central America (15%).


Where Utahns moved to


Conversely, Utah lost residents to pretty much the same places people were moving from. That said, the number of people leaving isn't as much as the number moving in, which is why Utah boasts a strong net migration overall.

The new report finds that many Utah residents who left the state ended up in either Arizona, California, Idaho, Texas or Washington. Researchers also found that about 75% of all Utahns who move out of the state come from the Wasatch Front and southwest Utah regions.

For instance, while 14,350 Californians came to the Wasatch Front every year between 2015 and 2019, an average of 7,836 residents in the Wasatch Front moved out to California. Utah also sent an average of 5,580 residents to Maricopa County, Arizona, between 2015 and 2019, which was the most of any individual county — nearly 80% of whom came from the Wasatch Front.

Clark County, Nevada (3,733); King County, Washington (1,822); Los Angeles County (1,617) and Ada County, Idaho (1,223) rounded out the top five destinations for people leaving Utah every year between 2015 and 2019, according to the report.


Keeping it in Utah


The new report also looked at migration patterns within Utah, which found that while Utah County gained the most residents from other states, Tooele County's growth "overwhelmingly" came from other parts of the state. Garfield, San Juan and Uintah counties also ended up with negative out-of-state but positive in-state migration growth between 2015 and 2019.

Meanwhile, some areas of state growth aren't bringing as many residents from inside the state. Salt Lake County and Washington County, for example, each lost more residents to other parts of the state than gained in-state residents. The same goes for eight other counties that had net out-of-state migration growth.

Only Carbon, Iron, Juab, Sanpete, Sevier, Utah, Wasatch and Weber counties ended up with growth in both in-state and out-of-state migration between 2015 and 2019, while Beaver, Box Elder, Davis, Duchesne and Grand were the only counties with losses in both categories.

Of course, much like with all Census Bureau data, the report doesn't offer much insight into why people move, it just offers a window into what people did over a recent span of time. Harris and Prior note that these trends will continue to shape Utah's population in the future, too.

"Counties across the state experience unique balances of in- and out-migration, flowing from both other states and neighboring counties," the authors wrote. "As Utah grows, in-state, out-of-state and international migration interact to shape Utah's future population."


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