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How many Utahns live in urban areas? – Desert News

If you regularly drive the I-15 corridor on the Wasatch Front, this won’t surprise you: nine out of 10 Utahns live in an urban area.

A new analysis by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute used Census Bureau data to contrast the socioeconomic differences between urban and rural Utah. Although each of the state’s 29 counties has some rural residents, ranging from 1% to 82%, 11 counties are considered completely rural.

“Utah’s urban and rural residents share similar income levels, family types and education levels, but vary in age profile and racial and ethnic composition,” said Mallory Bateman, director of demographic research at the Gardner Institute. “Health statistics and housing dynamics highlight the differences in the life experiences of Utah’s urban and rural residents.”

Utah’s urban areas make up only 1.1% of the state’s land area. As of 2024, the Beehive State had a population of just over 3.4 million people.

According to the most recent data from the Census Bureau and the USDA Economic Research Service, approximately 46 million people live in rural America, accounting for 14% of the total U.S. population. In general, rural areas are sparsely populated, have low housing density and are far from urban centers. Urban areas cover only 3% of the country’s entire land area, but are home to more than 80% of the population. Conversely, 97% of the country’s landmass is rural, but only 19.3% of the population lives there, according to the Census Bureau.

Married with children

Gardner found that urban and rural Utah have similar shares of married couples with children, but that married couples without children are more common in rural areas. Non-family households, in which an individual lives alone or with unrelated household members, are more common in urban areas. Urban areas also include a higher proportion of one-, three- and four-person households, while two-person households are more common in rural parts of the state.

Rural Utahns are less racially and ethnically diverse than urban Utahns, with 14% of residents identifying as a racial or ethnic minority, compared to 24% in urban areas. A greater share of rural residents identify as Native American, but fewer identify as other nonwhite racial groups and Hispanic or Latino residents.

Rural Utahns are also older than urban Utahns, with an average age of 34.9 years, compared to 30.9 years in urban areas. Compared to urban Utah, Utah’s rural population includes a higher share of children under age 18 and a higher share of adults age 65 and older.

Life expectancy also differs between rural and urban Utah. Rural residents have the longest life expectancy of 80 years, while the life expectancy for urban dwellers is 79.6 years.

East West home is best

The 164,000 homes in rural Utah represent 14.5% of the state’s housing stock, according to the study. While residents occupy 94.3% of homes in urban areas, only 72.6% of homes in rural Utah are occupied. The remaining 27.4% of rural housing units are vacant or seasonal, totaling nearly 45,000 units. More than three-quarters of the vacant buildings are intended for seasonal or recreational use.

Rural Utah has a higher share of owner-occupied homes and single-family homes than urban Utah. Owner-occupied homes make up 68.8% of homes in urban areas, but 83.9% of homes in rural areas. Similarly, single-unit detached houses make up 81.3% of housing construction in rural areas, but only 66% of construction in urban areas.

Rural homes are more often new construction. Only 12.1% of homes in urban areas were built in 2010 or later, compared to 24.1% of homes in rural areas. Additionally, 45.9% of urban renters spend more than 30% of their income paying rent, a financial strain experienced by 37.2% of rural renters.

Working for a living

The unemployment rate in both urban and rural Utah is the same at 3.5%, but a lower percentage of rural residents are employed or looking for work than urban residents. Among rural residents ages 20 to 64, 76.6% participate in the labor force, compared to 80.9% of urban Utahns. Urban households earn higher incomes up to the $50,000 to $74,999 income range, but rural households earn higher incomes for groups of $75,000 and above, the analysis found.

Rural Utahns also work in a different mix of industries than those in urban areas. Rural workers are likely to be mainly employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting or mining; build; public administration; and transportation and storage, and utilities.

Although rural workers make up 10.6% of employed workers age 16 and older, 12.3% of Utah government employees live in rural areas. Rural Utahns are also more likely to work from home than urban Utahns. In rural areas, 14% of workers reported working from home, compared to 11.5% of workers in cities.

Get Smart

Although more than 90% of both rural and urban Utahns have a high school diploma or higher, there are small differences in the level of secondary education between the two populations. According to the report, more than a third (35.8%) of urban residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32.5% of rural Utah residents. One in four rural residents and 22.3% of urban residents have a high school diploma as their highest level of education.

In urban and rural Utah, men are more likely than women to have a bachelor’s degree or higher, even though women are slightly more likely to have completed high school.