Produced in collaboration with Intermountain Healthcare, the Utah Foundation Quality of Life Index is updated every two years to track how Utahns perceive changes in quality of life and the reasons for those changes. The second biennial Utah Quality of Life Index stands at 78.2 out of a possible 100 points, up one point from 2011. Although Utah’s quality of life rating improved, several of the issues most important to Utahns – public schools, job availability, and air and water quality – are viewed as having below average quality.
Quality of Life Index factors related to health, safety, and the environment averaged the highest importance but suffered from the largest gap between importance and quality. This is the only grouping of factors that decreased in quality since 2011, due primarily to a decrease in the “air and water quality” and “quality healthcare” factors. In fact, the rating of air and water quality was the only issue to decrease a statistically significant amount since 2011.
Factors linked to public education and economic vitality suffered quality shortfalls compared to their importance. However, economic vitality-related issues saw the largest increase in quality since 2011, primarily due to the increased rating of the “availability of good jobs.” Both the recreation and culture-related factors and the community and values-related factors had slightly higher quality than importance. Factors related to infrastructure had the lowest quality ratings, which were slightly lower than their importance ratings. When comparing 2011 responses with 2013, infrastructure-related items decreased the most in importance while conversely increasing second most in terms of quality.
Of the 20 individual factors in the index, “spiritual and religious activities and groups” had the highest quality (90.8), while the “availability of good jobs” had the lowest quality (68.6). “Safety and security” was the most important item (92.4), and a “desire for people to have shared views and values” was the least important (67.8). While the “availability of good jobs” had the lowest quality and “having shared views” was the least important of the twenty factors, they did not have low ratings; “the availability of good jobs” is perceived by Utahns as being nearer to “excellent” than to “poor,” and having “shared views and values” is closer to “extremely important” than to “not at all important.” Ultimately all 20 factors were rated quite highly for both quality and importance. The report analyzes each factor to provide insight into its relative importance to the other factors.
The full report also provides a wellspring of data on each of the 20 factors. For instance, the report shows that Utah college tuition is increasing far faster than the national average, and Utah’s ranking of K-12 education revenues per $1,000 of personal income has been slipping for 20 years. Also, Utahns are now paying the smallest percentage of personal income on state fuel tax since it was implemented in the 1930s. The state’s smaller counties have more parks per resident but Salt Lake County has the largest parks. Utah’s cities are below the average cost of living in the U.S., but rental housing costs are becoming exceedingly high for half of the state’s renters. Lastly, the state is becoming more diverse, due in part to an increasing percentage of people moving here from other states and from outside of the U.S.
In addition to the Quality of Life Index questions, the survey asked respondents which one thing could most improve the quality of life where they live. The top responses were related to improving air quality, the availability of good jobs, K-12 education, affordability, and to decreasing crime and traffic. These are the issues upon which policy makers who want to have the greatest community impacts might want to focus their efforts.