How has Utah’s population grown since 2000?

With each district losing between 22% and 28% of its population to the new district, a wholesale redrawing of district lines is likely.

Utah’s rapid population growth over the past 10 years has earned it a fourth seat in Congress. Even if Utah had not gained a seat, though, any redistricting plan would have to start by considering how the population has continued shifting toward Utah’s urbanized north. After all, the best way to get your redistricting plan struck down in court is to draw districts with unequal populations.

The 2010 Census reports 2,763,885 people living in Utah. With four districts, each will need roughly 690,971 people. Although it would be nearly impossible to get exactly 690,971 people in each district, the courts will not allow much deviation from that ideal.

Utah’s four most populous counties–Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, and Weber–are home to enough people (2,083,934) to fill three of those districts on their own, with 11,020 people to spare. These four counties have added 381,484 people since 2000, enough to fill more than half a district.

The figures below show exactly where the growth has occurred over the past twenty years. The first figure shows population growth during the 1990s; the second figure shows growth during the 2000s. In both figures, the same five counties appear in the highest growth category. When we measure growth as the number of new residents (not as a percent), the fastest growing county in the 2000s was Utah County, followed by Salt Lake, Davis, Washington, and Weber Counties.

Population change, 1991-2000

Population change, 2001-2010

Population change, 2001-2010

Because of these growth patterns, Utah’s third district has become overpopulated relative to the other two districts. The 1st district (Rob Bishop) is centered in Weber and Davis Counties; the 2nd (Jim Matheson) starts in eastern Salt Lake County, then wraps around the southeast edge of the state and over to Washington County; the 3rd (Jason Chaffetz) is centered in Utah County. The map below shows the current district boundaries.

2001-2010 U.S. House districts

As shown in the table below, the 3rd district is overpopulated by 275,261 people. But even the least populated district (the 2nd) will need to shed 200,002 people in order to draw a fourth district. With each district losing between 22% and 28% of its population to the new district, a wholesale redrawing of district lines is likely.

District 2010 population Ideal population Difference
1 906,660 690,971 +215,689
2 890,993 690,971 +200,002
3 966,232 690,971 +275,261
4 0 690,971 -690,971

This is the first in a series of posts about redistricting, so we’ve started with the basics here. In our next post, we’ll take a look at population growth within Utah’s 75 state House districts. Doing so will show much more clearly where exactly growth has occurred over the past 10 years.

This is part of a series of posts about redistricting in Utah. For an overview, read the introductory post. My talented research assistant, Robert Richards, contributed heavily to this series.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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