New 2021 Annual Report on Intergenerational Poverty in Utah

By Britnee Johnston, report author

The Tenth Annual Report on Intergenerational Poverty, Welfare Dependency and Public Assistance Use was released this week by the Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission and marks a special 10-year milestone of collecting data and building awareness around Utahns living in poverty. Over the past decade, Utah has identified trends, which has guided various organizations in developing plans and improving programs to help families break the cycle of poverty. The full report can be viewed here.

This report builds upon years of multi-agency partnerships and collective efforts to provide insightful data about individuals and families experiencing intergenerational poverty (IGP). This includes a comprehensive look at annual child well-being data indicators in early childhood development, education, family economic stability, and health.

New indicators were included in this year’s report to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated hardships for those experiencing IGP. This includes rates of COVID-19 incidences, unemployment insurance claims, broadband internet access, domestic violence cases, returning student enrollment and learning delivery models. State and federal policies were also analyzed such as Medicaid Expansion and eligibility changes for public assistance programs during the pandemic. This report also looks at upcoming policies to help foresee what may impact the IGP population in the future.

Health was a major focus in 2020, and fortunately, the IGP population did not experience more adverse outcomes compared to the general population from COVID-19, although they reported a slightly higher rate of positive cases. Further research could reveal factors that influenced the difference between higher cases and lower adverse outcomes for the IGP population.

Another health-related focus was Medicaid Expansion, which had the opportune timing of going into effect in 2020. During the pandemic, a total of 16,835 IGP adults received public health insurance who might have gone without coverage if Medicaid Expansion had not been available.

Below are the top ten findings for 2020:

  1. The majority of IGP adults in 2020 were women (62%). Historically, women have had higher odds of experiencing IGP than men.

  2. Out of Utah’s general population, American Indian adults (16%) and children (27%) experienced the highest rates of IGP out of all racial groups, while White adults (2%) and children (2%) had the lowest rates.

  3. A majority of IGP adults (67%) did not have a postsecondary education, which may relate to their low workforce participation.

  4. San Juan County had the highest rate of children at risk of remaining in poverty as adults (52%) compared to the state’s overall at-risk rate (21%). The county also had the most schools with the highest rates of students who were IGP.

  5. High school graduation rates (79%) continued to increase for IGP children. Since 2012, the IGP graduation rates have increased from 50%.

  6. IGP adults had a higher need for behavioral health services (48%) and substance use treatment (43%) than in 2019 (45% and 36%, respectively), possibly to cope with stress from the pandemic.

  7. Employed IGP adults (38%) experienced a job loss or interruption that was more than twice as high as Utah’s general labor force (16%) in 2020.

  8. IGP adults (35%) enrolled in the first year of Medicaid Expansion to receive public health insurance that they were not eligible for prior to 2020.

  9. The IGP population (10%) experienced slightly higher COVID-19 case rates compared to Utah’s general population (9%), while having lower hospitalizations, case fatalities and death rates.

  10. Regular and federal pandemic unemployment benefits helped keep IGP families afloat, as their average monthly income nearly doubled from $1,122 to $2,016 in 2020.

The report’s overall findings indicate that the immediate impacts of COVID-19 were alleviated in 2020 for those in poverty with help from unemployment benefits, federal stimulus packages and policy changes. It is important to continue to track these trends as there could still be longer-lasting impacts on academic achievement, economic success and long-term health in the coming years.

Policymakers can use this report as a comprehensive guide for improving their programs and services to better serve low-income Utahns. Through these collaborative efforts, Utah will continue to build economic opportunity and ensure equitable access for all to reach their full potential. For more information on intergenerational poverty, and to view previous annual reports and data, visit