Utah is often criticized for its lack of diversity. When people think of the “typical Utah family,” they probably imagine a white Republican Latter-day Saint family made up of a husband, wife, and children. Lots of children.
But the truth is much more nuanced. Just as it is dangerous to have just one story about child care or who makes a better leader, it is important to see beyond the stereotypes of Utah families. If our perceptions and policies are adapted to one version of this family – even if it is the majority – we are essentially refusing to see our whole community.
At the last general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, two general authorities pointed out that more than half of the adults in the Church are now single, whether divorced, widowed or never married. . For many, this unique status made them feel invisible and these religious leaders insist that they be adopted as full participants and not as halves in need of a pair.
For Utah families, census data shows that about 18% of children live in single-parent households. This means that approximately 167,000 infants, toddlers, children, tweens and adolescents under the age of 18 do not fit the stereotype.
Recognizing this is important when we develop policies that affect these children. For example, in 2020, a bill to expand the school breakfast was initially rejected by Utah lawmakers, with one senator sharing that his mother and now his wife made breakfasts for the family, so why all couldn’t moms do the same? When we universalize our particular situation, we can deny everyone’s experiences.
What about other aspects of a “typical” Utah family? Did you know that approximately 40,000 Utah households are multigenerational? In these houses, maybe grandfather is making breakfast. And the average number of children is 2.3 (the same for many children). I was surprised to learn that in 15% of households a language other than English was spoken and 6.5% of Utahns under 65 had a disability. These numbers remind me that I have easy access to so many things that can be a challenge for others, whether it’s all voter information in English only, or how easily I navigate spaces that cannot accommodate a wheelchair.
When it comes to politics, Utah is known as a Red State. And yet the most recent voter registration statistics show a more complicated picture. Yes, Republicans dominate, but barely 51%. Democrats are 15%, but more than a third of us don’t fit into either of the two categories. So you can’t always assume who voted for whom.
But we can surely assume that everyone attends the same church on Sunday, right? Well not really. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints represent 61% of the population. So if you line up five people, three are Latter-day Saints, one another is a Christian, and the other is unaffiliated (which, according to studies, is the fastest growing group among the generation. Y).
So, although the world and the rest of the nation choose to view us as monochrome, it is essential that we do not follow suit. Just as Utah’s topography is made up of snow-capped peaks as well as red rocks and lush valleys, the family landscape also reflects a wide range of religious traditions, ages, marital status, political beliefs and more. . As we see the diversity and strengths of families in our state, I believe we can move beyond stereotypes and recognize that amid the differences, deep in their hearts, we all want similar things for our families: opportunity, education, growth and love.