Utah Foundation report: Social capitol of the next generation

Today, the Utah Foundation releases the sixth report in its Utah Social Capital Series with The Flowering of Youth: The Next Generation in Utah. This installment focuses on the extent to which Utah addresses the needs of the next generation; the previous installments focused on civic engagement, social trust, community life, family life and social cohesion.

The Flowering of Youth presents data and analysis in four areas: the birth rate; investments in recreation; investments in public schools; and the ratio of children to the number of youth organizations. It looks at Utah’s performance on these measures over time, comparing the Beehive State both to the seven other Mountain States and to the nation at large.

Among the findings of the new report:

  • Though Utah’s public investments in parks and recreation (relative to income) have generally been in decline, the state remains in the top five nationally.
  • Utah’s state and local expenditures on primary and secondary education per $1,000 of personal income declined by a notable amount from 2008 to 2019, falling more than one-fifth. Utah is now below the national average on this metric.
  • While Utah’s birth rate has been in precipitous decline, the Beehive State still leads the nation.
  • Utah and neighboring Arizona are last in the nation when it comes to the number of youth organizations per 1,000 children aged 5 to 17. This is not typical of the region: Wyoming and Montana are the nation’s most prolific.
  • The decline in funding effort both for education and recreation in Utah and elsewhere comes alongside a decline in the birth rate. It is possible that these downward trends are intertwined. Taken together, however, the trends suggest the focus on the next generation has become less sharp.

Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said that the extent to which a society attends to the needs of its children says much about its effort to build social capital into the future. “For a society to thrive, children must find opportunities to cultivate both hard and soft skills, and reach their physical and mental potential,” Reichard said.

The Flowering of Youth: The Next Generation in Utah is attached hereto and will be available today on the Utah Foundation website at www.utahfoundation.org. Special thanks to the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Lawrence T. & Janet T. Dee Foundation for providing project-based support to the Utah Social Capital Series.