November 12, 2017

Utah Economic Benchmarking Project 2017

New Economic Benchmarking Report Finds Utah Ahead on Some, Behind on Other Key Metrics of Economic Opportunity and Standard of Living


    Salt Lake City, November 13, 2017 - Voices for Utah Children released today its pdfannual economic benchmarking report that evaluates how the Utah economy is experienced by median- and lower-income families by benchmarking Utah against another comparable state.  This year's report compares Utah to Minnesota.  Utah and Minnesota stand out nationally as high-performing states both for economic success (rapid growth and low unemployment) and social success (high household incomes, low poverty rates).  Both also share similar histories of European (particularly northern European) immigration and strong indicators of social cohesion and equity, as well as growing immigrant and minority populations today. The findings in this year's report shed light on some of Utah's greatest strengths as well as where we can learn from a state like Minnesota. 

Utah's Top Economic Advantages: Hard Work, Strong Families Allow Utah to Enjoy High Household Incomes and Low Poverty Despite Lower Hourly Wages

 As discussed on pages 13 and 16 of the report, Utahns work the 13th longest workweeks in the nation (vs 30th longest in Minnesota), and we have a much higher labor force participation rate than the national average. We also have the nation's highest rate of married-couple households and, as a result, a higher-than-average share of two-worker households. This enables us to match Minnesota -- and far exceed the national average -- for median household income, where Utah ranked #11 in 2016, and Minnesota was #13, in spite of Utah's relatively low median hourly wages compared to Minnesota. 

Ut Mn hh inc 

Ut Mn poverty rates

Ut Mn hrly wage plus

Can Utah Learn Any Lessons From Minnesota So That We Can Become a High-Wage State?

Higher wages can often be achieved through a more productive workforce.  As shown in the charts below from page 14 of the report, Utah workers are far less productive than Minnesota's. Worker productivity, in turn, is closely linked to education and skill levels.

 Ut Mn productivity

Utah's Achilles Heel:

We're Falling Behind in Educational Attainment, and It's Costing Us

 The charts below from pages 24-25 of the report compare Utah and Minnesota and the nation as a whole on educational attainment. Historically Utah was well ahead of the nation, but more recently evidence has mounted that Utah is not keeping up with the nation's gains at the level of higher education.  Minnesota, by contrast, is one of the best-educated states in the nation.

Ut Mn educ attainment Ut Mn educ gains


 Ut Mn big chart 1 econ oppty

Ut Mn big chart 2 std of liv 

The full 50-page report is pdfpdfavailable here as a pdf download.