Salt Lake City (often shortened to Salt Lake and abbreviated as SLC) is the capital and most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Utah. With an estimated population of 200,591 in 2018, the city is the core of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a population of 1,222,540 (2018 estimate). Salt Lake City is further situated within a larger metropolis known as the Salt Lake City–Ogden–Provo Combined Statistical Area, a corridor of contiguous urban and suburban development stretched along a 120-mile (190 km) segment of the Wasatch Front, comprising a population of 2,606,548 (as of 2018 estimates). It is one of only two major urban areas in the Great Basin. It is also the seat of Salt Lake County, the most populous county in Utah.
Salt Lake City has an area of 110.4 square miles (286 km) and an average elevation of 4,327 feet (1,319 m) above sea level. The lowest point within the boundaries of the city is 4,210 feet (1,280 m) near the Jordan River and the Great Salt Lake, and the highest is Grandview Peak, at 9,410 feet (2,868 m).
The city is in the northeast corner of the Salt Lake Valley surrounded by the Great Salt Lake to the northwest, the steep Wasatch Range to the east, and Oquirrh Mountains to the west. Its encircling mountains contain several narrow canyons, including City Creek, Emigration, Millcreek, and Parley’s which border the eastern city limits.
The burgeoning population of Salt Lake City and the surrounding metropolitan area, combined with its geographical situation, has led to air quality becoming a concern. The Great Basin is subject to strong temperature inversions during the winter, which trap pollutants and decrease the air quality. The Utah Division of Air Quality monitors air quality and issues alerts for voluntary and mandatory actions when pollution exceeds federal safety standards. Protests have been held at the Utah State Capitol and Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation in the Utah State Legislature to make public transportation free during January and July, when air quality is usually at its worst. The population of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area is projected to double by 2040, putting further pressure on the region’s air quality.
The Great Salt Lake is separated from Salt Lake City by extensive marshlands and mudflats. The metabolic activities of bacteria in the lake result in a phenomenon known as “lake stink”, a scent reminiscent of foul poultry eggs, two to three times per year for a few hours. The Jordan River flows through the city and is a drainage of Utah Lake that empties into the Great Salt Lake.
The highest mountaintop visible from Salt Lake City is Twin Peaks, which reaches 11,330 feet (3,450 m). Twin Peaks is southeast of Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Range. The Wasatch Fault is found along the western base of the Wasatch and is considered at high risk of producing an earthquake as large as 7.5. Catastrophic damage is predicted in the event of an earthquake with major damage resulting from the liquefaction of the clay- and sand-based soil and the possible permanent flooding of portions of the city by the Great Salt Lake.
The second-highest mountain range is the Oquirrhs, reaching a maximum height of 10,620 feet (3,237 m) at Flat Top. The east-west oriented Traverse Mountains to the south extend to 6,000′ (1830m), nearly connecting the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains. The mountains near Salt Lake City are easily visible from the city and have sharp vertical relief caused by ancient earthquakes, with a maximum difference of 7,099 feet (2164 m) being achieved with the rise of Twin Peaks from the Salt Lake Valley floor.
The Salt Lake Valley floor is the ancient lakebed of Lake Bonneville which existed at the end of the last Ice Age. Several Lake Bonneville shorelines can be distinctly seen as terraces on the foothills or benches of nearby mountains.
US Census Bureau estimates for 2016 listed 193,744 people in Salt Lake City. The racial makeup of the county was 65.0% non-Hispanic White, 2.5% Black, 1.1% Native American, 5.6% Asian, 1.7% Pacific Islander, and 2.8% from two or more races. 21.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
At the 2010 census, Salt Lake City’s population was 75.1% White, 2.6% African American, 1.2% American Indian and Alaska Native, 4.4% Asian, 2.0% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 10.7% from other races and 3.7% of mixed descent. 22.3% of the total population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. The city’s population has historically been predominantly white. Between 1860 and 1950 whites represented about 99% of the city’s population but this somewhat changed in the decades that followed.
As of 2010, 37.0% of the population had a bachelor’s degree or higher. 18.5% of the population was foreign born and another 1.1% was born in Puerto Rico, U.S. insular territories, or born abroad to American parent(s). 27.0% spoke a language other than English at home.
There are 186,440 people (up from 181,743 in 2000), 75,177 households, and 57,543 families in the city. This amounts to 6.75% of Utah’s population, 18.11% of Salt Lake County’s population, and 16.58% of the new Salt Lake metropolitan population. The area within the city limits covers 14.2% of Salt Lake County. Salt Lake City is more densely populated than the surrounding metro area with a population density of 1,688.77/sqmi (1,049.36/km²). There are 80,724 housing units at an average density of 731.2/sqmi (454.35/km²).
The Salt Lake City-Ogden metropolitan area, which included Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties, had a population of 1,333,914 in 2000, a 24.4% increase over the 1990 figure of 1,072,227. Since the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau has added Summit and Tooele counties to the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, but removed Davis and Weber counties and designated them as the separate Ogden-Clearfield metropolitan area. The Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield combined statistical area, together with the Provo-Orem metropolitan area, which lies to the south, have a combined population of 2,094,035 as of July 1, 2008.
There are 75,177 households, out of which 27.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.1% are married couples living together, 10.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 44.3% are other types of households. Of the 75,177 households, 3,904 were reported to be unmarried partner households: 3,047 heterosexual, 458 same-sex male, and 399 same-sex female. 33.2% of all households are made up of individuals, and 9.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.48, and the average family size is 3.24.
The city’s age distribution (as of 2000):
The median age is 30 years. For every 100 females, there are 102.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 101.2 males. The median income for a household in the city is $36,944, and the median income for a family is $45,140. Males have a median income of $31,511 versus $26,403 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,752. 15.3% of the population and 10.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 18.7% of those under the age of 18 and 8.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Large family sizes and low housing vacancy rates, which have inflated housing costs along the Wasatch Front, have led to one out of every six residents living below the poverty line.
According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 2017, the highest disparity in income in Utah is in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City’s GINI Index score was 0.4929, compared with the state’s overall score of 0.423. The west-side areas of Salt Lake have the lowest-incomes while areas like the upper Avenues, have much higher incomes. Other Utah cities with relatively high scores include Provo, 0.4734; and Ogden, 0.4632.
Fewer than 50% of Salt Lake City’s residents are members of the LDS Church. This is a much lower proportion than in Utah’s more rural municipalities; altogether, LDS members make up about 62% of Utah’s population.
The Rose Park and Glendale sections are predominantly Spanish-speaking with Hispanic and Latino Americans accounting for 60% of public school-children. The Centro Civico Mexicano acts as a community gathering point for the Wasatch Front’s estimated 300,000 Latinos, Mexican President Vicente Fox began his 2006 US tour in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City is home to a Bosnian American community of more than 8,000, most of whom arrived during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. The large Pacific Islander population, mainly Samoan and Tongan, is also centered in the Rose Park, Glendale, and Poplar Grove sectors. Most of Salt Lake City’s ethnic Pacific Islanders are members of the LDS Church, though various Samoan and Tongan-speaking congregations are situated throughout the Salt Lake area including Samoan Congregational, Tongan Wesleyan Methodist, and Roman Catholic. Just outside Salt Lake City limits, newer immigrant communities include Nepalis, and refugees of Karen origin from Myanmar (former Burma). Salt Lake City also has the third largest Sri Lankan community in the United States.
Salt Lake City has been considered one of the top 51 “gay-friendly places to live” in the U.S. The city is home to a large, business savvy, organized, and politically supported gay community. Leaders of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Utah, as well as leaders of Utah’s largest Jewish congregation, the Salt Lake Kol Ami, along with three elected representatives of the city identify themselves as gay. These developments have attracted controversy from socially conservative officials representing other regions of the state. A 2006 study by UCLA estimates approximately 7.6% of the city’s population, or almost 14,000 people, are openly gay or bisexual, compared to just 3.7%, or just over 60,000 people, for the metropolitan area as a whole.
In 2007, Salt Lake City was ranked by Forbes as the most vain city in America, based on the number of plastic surgeons per 100,000 and their spending habits on cosmetics, which exceed cities of similar size. However, this likely reflects a concentration of plastic surgeons within the city limits but whose client base includes the entire metropolitan area. Forbes also found the city to be the 8th most stressful. In contrast to the 2007 ranking by Forbes, a 2010 study conducted by Portfolio.com and bizjournals concluded Salt Lake City was the least stressful city in the United States. In 2014, CNN deemed Salt Lake City to be the least stressed-out city in the United States, citing the low cost of living and abundance of jobs.
A 2008 study by the magazines Men’s Health and Women’s Health found Salt Lake City to be the healthiest city for women by looking at 38 different factors, including cancer rates, air quality, and the number of gym memberships.