On Tuesday, the Provo Municipal Council was asked to think about the core values of Provo and if they provide for inclusion and diversity.
In a recent Wallet Hub online survey it noted that Provo is one of the least diverse cities its size in the United States. While some may question the study’s methodology and data, it still has given elected officials something to think about.
That is exactly what Jacob Rugh, a Brigham Young University professor in the Department of Sociology, invited the council to do: Think about it.
When thinking about a team, religion, military, etc., diversity and inclusion is not these groups’ goal. But according to Rugh, racial and ethnic balance is essential to their success.
Rugh asked the council to think about what Provo’s mutual obligations and its common core values are.
When it comes to simply defining mutual obligations, Rugh noted the relationship established between President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Rugh pointed out a quote from Nelson made last year.
“Our common bond as followers of Jesus Christ and as religious leaders gave us a natural foundation from which to build a friendship as well as an opportunity to better appreciate each other’s unique perspective and experience,” Nelson said in an earlier press release about the relationship between the LDS Church and NAACP.
Common bonds from which to build friendships is a mutual obligation.
“The common core values in Provo include family, hard work, civic life, pioneering, freedom, education and independence,” Rugh said.
Rugh referred to a study recently released by BYU on race, equity and belonging on campus.
The purpose of the study is to help the university better understand and address people’s experiences with diversity and belonging, as well as to develop plans to improve the campus experience for all students and employees.
The committee provided President Kevin J Worthen with a 63-page report and 26 recommendations, which are available at race.byu.edu.
Rugh called them “historic recommendations” and indicated that Provo could benefit from them.
During his presentation, Rugh brought the message close to home by utilizing experiences from Provo residents and how they have had to deal with diversity of all kinds in the community.
The data he provided was eye-opening. While it may not appear at first glance that some of the data is relevant, it does play into the common core values of Provo and the ability to live, play and work here.
In a 50-year period of time between 1970 and 2020, those between the ages of 18 to 35 were between 52% and 55% of the population. Not unusual because of the colleges in the area. However, households with children in Provo in 1970 was 40.2% of the population, as compared with 24.2% of the population in 2019.
The percentage of women with college degrees has grown substantially over the past 50 years.
In 1970, 33% of men in Provo had a college degree while only 18% percent of women were degreed. Compare that to today, with 45% of the men having a degree and 42% of the women.
Race and ethnicity
When it comes to race and ethnicity, Provo in 1970 was only 3.1% non-white. In 2020, it was 25.6% non-white.
Rugh said like Provo, Latinos are the largest U.S. minority.
In 2019, Provo was 17% Latino, of that 17% approximately 68% were from or have heritage in Mexico and 16% from Central and South America.
Provo numbers show that 83% of Latinos are U.S. citizens, 65% by birth and 18% by naturalization. Just over 3,000 are not citizens.
And then there are the renters, who in past times have been given a brush-by because they are most likely students and will only be in the area a short time.
Rugh said that has changed.
In 1970, nearly 50% of homes in Provo were owned by individuals or were single-family homes. That has changed to just about 41%.
It’s now about 60-40 renter vs. owner. With the average home costing about $362,561, it is hard to become homeowners in Provo, according to Rugh.
“There is a new boom in the multi-family units,” Rugh said. “There were permits issued last year for 15,118 multi-family units and 11,872 single-family units.”
When asked what will make Provo a great place to live in 2040, residents said their top three choices were: open space and recreation; multi-modal transportation; and leader in sustainable practices.
The bottom three were regional employment center, increased health and safety, and increased economic opportunity. Running close to those were diversity and inclusivity, and affordable housing.
“Utah County is projected to be on par with Salt Lake City (population numbers) by 2065,” Rugh said. “We will see Utah and Provo blossom as they make choices for the future.”
At the end of his presentation, Rugh again asked council members how they would anchor diversity and build toward common core values.
Councilman George Handley noted that Provo has an invisible diversity.
“It’s been on our minds how to engage the Latino populations more,” Handley added.
Rugh said, “You need to be creative in your outreach. Voices are missing, and we could thrive from it.”
“This is a long time coming in Provo,” said Councilwoman Shannon Ellsworth.
Rugh said Provo can learn from other jurisdictions. “We can do a better job.”
Most council members voiced their appreciation for the presentation and said they would like to continue the discussion, indicating they would like another visit with Rugh in coming council meetings.