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2015 State History Conference Keynote

October 2, 2015, 12:00pm
Utah Cultural Celebration Center

Keynote speaker Pamela S. Perlich, PhD

Pam Perlich

Utah’s Hidden Diversity:  Decoding Evidence from the Census

The people and communities of Utah have always been more diverse than has been represented in official government population statistics. For example, the Census of 1850 omitted Native Americans, a population that far outnumbered the Mormons pioneers who were mostly of European descent and classified as “White.” This created an official record of the Utah population as majority White.

Even the most recent official categorization of people still anchors “diversity” to the concept of race, with “minorities” defined as any person who identifies themselves as anything other than “White Alone and Not Hispanic.” In this official statistical system, many of the most recent arrivals to Utah are also invisible. Persons of Middle Eastern heritage, for example, are instructed to declare themselves “White Alone and Not Hispanic.” These changing official categories of race, ethnicity, nativity, and ancestry provide a window into the changing landscape of race and nativist politics and perennially collide with the realities of a place with a tapestry of richly diverse cultural communities.

This talk overviews and navigates through the official historical Census record of the people of Utah and critically evaluates the myth that Utah has always been and forever will remain, predominantly Mormon, white, and young.

Pamela Perlich, Ph.D. is Director of Demographic Research at The Policy Institute at the University of Utah where she leads the newly formed Demographic Team. In this role, she and her team are responsible for developing and producing population estimates and projections, neighborhood indicators, and demographic analyses focusing on Utah. Formerly she worked as a Senior Research Economist with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR), which has recently merged into The Policy Institute. Prior to joining BEBR, she worked in the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, concentrating on long run economic and demographic projections.

She has researched, published, and taught on a wide range of topics over the course of her career. Although trained as an economist, she applies a multidisciplinary approach to develop data, modeling, and analysis that identifies ongoing demographic, economic and cultural transformations. The focus of her work is to illuminate these trends and the associated implications for the future, especially as they impact Utah.

She has received awards for teaching, publication, and public service. She often serves as a resource to the press, providing the Utah context for broader events. Pamela serves on numerous boards and commissions. Her most recent endeavor is the establishment of the Utah Community Data Project, which provides frequently updated neighborhood portraits that highlight the great diversity in our communities and how these change over time.