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Population Booms and Busts Across Minnesota's 87 Counties This Decade

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Soaring population in central Minnesota and southern metropolitan regions to require eventual carving up of 6th and 2nd Congressional Districts after 2010

Although the Gopher State's population is continuing to grow, there were concerns as late as last year that Minnesota might lose one of its eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives when reapportionment takes place after the 2010 Census.

While those fears have largely been allayed based on current state-by-state population projections, the rate of population growth will be smaller this decade in the Gopher State compared to the 1990s.

Minnesota's statewide population increased 6.1 percent from 2000 to 2008 (with two more years of growth yet to be tabulated), according to population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, after growing 12.4 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Of course, the distribution of this population change has been quite varied across the Gopher State over the course of the past 8 years, and this will have implications within the state as it begins to consider the process by which new legislative and Congressional district lines are drawn.

It is expected that the 6th and 2nd Congressional Districts in particular will need to be trimmed while the 5th, 4th, and 7th districts will need to grow in order to approximate an equal number of residents in each district.

And precisely where is Minnesota experiencing its population booms and busts?

Smart Politics conducted an analysis of U.S. Census county-wide population data, grouping the Gopher State's 87 counties into the following 12 regions (region names are culled from Minnesota Regional Development Commission designations where available):

Arrowhead: Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, St. Louis.
Central: Benton, Sherburne, Stearns, Wright.
East Central: Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Pine.
Headwaters: Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen.
Metropolitan: Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Washington.
Mid-Minnesota: Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Renville.
North Central: Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, Wadena.
Northwest: Kittson, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau.
South Central: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca, Watonwan.
Southeast: Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Winona.
Upper Minnesota Valley: Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift, Yellow Medicine.
West Central: Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse, Wilkin.

Thirty-nine of the state's 87 counties have experienced population growth during the past eight years, with the top nine counties with the largest population growth all located in the metropolitan, central, and east central regions of the state.

Scott County, in the southern metropolitan region, has notched the biggest growth rate to date, at 44.1 percent this decade. Home to cities such as Savage, Prior Lake, and Shakopee in the 2nd Congressional District, Scott County has also had the biggest population increase over the past three decades in the state - increasing 194.5 percent since 1980 (from 43,784 to 128,937).

The metropolitan counties of Carver (#4, 28.3 percent growth) in the 2nd CD and Washington (#9, 13.9 percent) in the 6th CD also rank in the Top 10 in the state in terms of population growth rate this decade.

The Central region counties of Sherburne (#2, 36.1 percent growth), Wright (#3, 33.0 percent), and Benton (#8, 16.5 percent) in the 6th CD are also experiencing significant growth in the 2000s.

Overall, the Central region counties of Benton, Sherburne, Stearns, and Wright lead the way with 22.5 percent growth collectively this decade, with the East Central counties of Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine not far behind at 17.5 percent.

The metropolitan region counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington, which experienced growth north of 15 percent in the 1980s and 1990s, will not reach 10 percent growth this decade - growing at just 6.4 percent from 2000 through 2008.

All of the metro counties have experienced population growth, save one: Ramsey County. Ramsey's population has dropped 1.9 percent, from 511,035 in 2000 to 501,428 in 2008. Ramsey had experienced growth of over 5 percent in both the 1980s and 1990s.

Four regions of the state are in the midst of declining populations - the Upper Minnesota valley region (-8.1 percent), the Southwest (-4.8 percent), the Northwest (-4.0 percent), and the Arrowhead region (-0.5 percent).

Change in Minnesota Population By Region, 2000-2008

Region
2000
2008
2000-2008
Central
321,795
394,315
22.5
East Central
136,244
160,127
17.5
Metropolitan
2,642,056
2,810,424
6.4
North Central
152,100
161,025
5.9
Southeast
460,102
486,517
5.7
Headwaters
76,161
80,007
5.0
West central
210,059
217,453
3.5
South Central
222,790
226,648
1.7
Mid-Minnesota
115,899
116,848
0.8
Arrowhead
322,073
320,342
-0.5
Northwest
88,472
84,944
-4.0
Southwest
121,717
115,816
-4.8
Upper MN Valley
50,011
45,937
-8.1
Minnesota
4,919,479
5,220,393
6.1
Table compiled by Smart Politics from U.S. Census Bureau data.

The metropolitan region continues to comprise more than half of the state's population, as it has since the late 1980s. However, at 53.8 percent, the metropolitan counties' share of the state population is basically flat since 2000 (53.7 percent).

The Arrowhead / Iron Range region - which is currently shedding population - has seen its share of the Gopher State population decline each of the last few decades: from 8.4 percent in 1980, to 7.1 percent in 1990, to 6.5 percent in 2000, to 6.1 percent in 2008.

The other regions which are comprising a smaller and smaller percentage of the state's population each decade are in the South Central, West Central, Mid-Minnesota, Southwest, Northwest, and Upper Minnesota Valley regions of the state.

Proportion of Minnesota State Population by Region, 1980-2008

Region
1980
1990
2000
2008
Metropolitan
48.7
52.3
53.7
53.8
Southeast
9.9
9.6
9.4
9.3
Central
5.4
5.9
6.5
7.6
Arrowhead
8.4
7.1
6.5
6.1
South Central
5.4
4.9
4.5
4.3
West central
5.0
4.5
4.3
4.2
North Central
3.2
3.0
3.1
3.1
East Central
2.4
2.5
2.8
3.1
Mid-Minnesota
2.6
2.5
2.4
2.2
Southwest
3.4
2.8
2.5
2.2
Northwest
2.4
2.1
1.8
1.6
Headwaters
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
Upper MN Valley
1.5
1.2
1.0
0.9
Table compiled by Smart Politics from U.S. Census Bureau data.

Seven of the 48 counties that are enduring a population decline this decade, are doing so at a double-digit rate.

Kittson County (#87), in the Northwest region of the state, has shed population at the highest rate. Kittson has lost 15.6 percent of its population since 2000, and 33.1 percent of its population since 1980 - second only to Traverse County (34.0 percent) over the past three decades.

The other counties ranking at the bottom in population growth since 2000 are Wilkin (#85, -11.9 percent), Lake of the Woods (#85, -11.9 percent), Traverse (#84, -11.5 percent), Norman (#82, -11.2 percent), Lac qui Parle (#82, -11.2 percent), and Yellow Medicine (#81, -10.1 percent).

Overall, of the 17 counties that have experienced double-digit growth so far this decade, only two are in any of the northern regions of the state: Crow Wing in the North Central region (#11, 12.8 percent growth) and Beltrami in the Headwaters region (#13, 10.6 percent).

And the Gopher State's least populated counties are generally getting less and less populated.

Of the 12 counties with a population of less than 10,000 individuals in 1980, only one has enjoyed an increase in population this decade (Cook County, 5.2 percent), and only two have had a net increase over the past three decades (Cook, at 32.9 percent, and Lake of the Woods at 5.9 percent).

Rate of Population Growth in Minnesota by County, 2000-2008

Rank
County
Region
2000
2008
'00-'08
1
Scott
Metropolitan
89,498
128,937
44.1
2
Sherburne
Central
64,417
87,660
36.1
3
Wright
Central
89,986
119,701
33.0
4
Carver
Metropolitan
70,205
90,043
28.3
5
Isanti
East central
31,287
39,105
25.0
6
Chisago
East central
41,101
50,257
22.3
7
Mille Lacs
East central
22,330
26,377
18.1
8
Benton
Central
34,226
39,878
16.5
9
Washington
Metropolitan
201,130
229,173
13.9
10
Olmsted
Southeast
124,277
141,360
13.7
11
Crow Wing
North Central
55,099
62,172
12.8
12
Dodge
Southeast
17,731
19,751
11.4
13
Beltrami
Headwaters
39,650
43,835
10.6
14
Douglas
West central
32,821
36,258
10.5
15
Stearns
Central
133,166
147,076
10.4
15
Dakota
Metropolitan
355,904
392,755
10.4
17
Le Sueur
South Central
25,426
28,042
10.3
18
Rice
Southeast
56,665
62,390
10.1
19
Anoka
Metropolitan
298,084
327,090
9.7
20
Clay
West central
51,229
55,767
8.9
21
Steele
Southeast
33,680
36,546
8.5
22
Blue Earth
South Central
55,941
60,401
8.0
23
Nicollet
South Central
29,771
32,027
7.6
24
Kanabec
East central
14,996
16,091
7.3
25
Carlton
Arrowhead
31,671
33,933
7.1
26
Becker
West central
30,000
32,000
6.7
26
Pine
East central
26,530
28,297
6.7
28
McLeod
Mid-Minnesota
34,898
37,165
6.5
29
Cass
North Central
27,150
28,732
5.8
30
Cook
Arrowhead
5,168
5,437
5.2
31
Goodhue
Southeast
44,127
45,897
4.0
32
Morrison
North Central
31,712
32,893
3.7
33
Aitkin
Arrowhead
15,301
15,736
2.8
34
Hubbard
Headwaters
18,376
18,810
2.4
35
Hennepin
Metropolitan
1,116,200
1,140,998
2.2
35
Meeker
Mid-Minnesota
22,644
23,143
2.2
37
Pennington
Northwest
13,584
13,747
1.2
37
Itasca
Arrowhead
43,992
44,512
1.2
39
Wabasha
Southeast
21,610
21,813
0.9
40
Winona
Southeast
49,985
49,879
-0.2
41
Waseca
South Central
19,526
19,443
-0.4
42
Otter Tail
West central
57,159
56,786
-0.7
43
Mahnomen
Headwaters
5,190
5,128
-1.2
44
Kandiyohi
Mid-Minnesota
41,203
40,679
-1.3
44
Fillmore
Southeast
21,122
20,850
-1.3
46
St. Louis
Arrowhead
200,528
196,864
-1.8
46
Pope
West central
11,236
11,030
-1.8
48
Ramsey
Metropolitan
511,035
501,428
-1.9
48
Mower
Southeast
38,603
37,859
-1.9
50
Clearwater
Headwaters
8,423
8,249
-2.1
50
Todd
North Central
24,426
23,917
-2.1
52
Polk
Northwest
31,369
30,694
-2.2
52
Nobles
Southwest
20,832
20,365
-2.2
54
Lyon
Southwest
25,425
24,844
-2.3
55
Houston
Southeast
19,718
19,245
-2.4
56
Rock
Southwest
9,721
9,476
-2.5
57
Sibley
South Central
15,356
14,954
-2.6
58
Roseau
Northwest
16,338
15,865
-2.9
58
Wadena
North Central
13,713
13,311
-2.9
60
Brown
South Central
26,911
25,862
-3.9
60
Stevens
West central
10,053
9,661
-3.9
62
Lake
Arrowhead
11,058
10,609
-4.1
63
Grant
West central
6,289
6,005
-4.5
64
Jackson
Southwest
11,268
10,734
-4.7
65
Pipestone
Southwest
9,895
9,395
-5.1
65
Freeborn
Southeast
32,584
30,927
-5.1
65
Chippewa
Upper MN Valley
13,088
12,414
-5.1
68
Red Lake
Northwest
4,299
4,069
-5.4
69
Martin
South Central
21,802
20,435
-6.3
70
Marshall
Northwest
10,155
9,502
-6.4
71
Cottonwood
Southwest
12,167
11,283
-7.3
72
Renville
Mid-Minnesota
17,154
15,861
-7.5
73
Koochiching
Arrowhead
14,355
13,251
-7.7
73
Swift
Upper MN Valley
11,956
11,035
-7.7
75
Big Stone
Upper MN Valley
5,820
5,365
-7.8
76
Redwood
Southwest
16,815
15,493
-7.9
77
Murray
Southwest
9,165
8,389
-8.5
78
Watonwan
South Central
11,876
10,860
-8.6
79
Lincoln
Southwest
6,429
5,837
-9.2
80
Faribault
South Central
16,181
14,624
-9.6
81
Yellow Medicine
Upper MN Valley
11,080
9,958
-10.1
82
Lac qui Parle
Upper MN Valley
8,067
7,165
-11.2
82
Norman
Northwest
7,442
6,605
-11.2
84
Traverse
West central
4,134
3,660
-11.5
85
Lake of the Woods
Headwaters
4,522
3,985
-11.9
85
Wilkin
West central
7,138
6,286
-11.9
87
Kittson
Northwest
5,285
4,462
-15.6
 
Minnesota
 
4,919,479
5,220,393
6.1
Table compiled by Smart Politics from U.S. Census Bureau data.

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1 Comment


  • Does Olmsted County deserve a Roger Maris asterisk ?
    Yes, it grew by 17,083 ... but Rochester grew by 16,631 (85,806 to 102,437).

    It would be interesting to note how many of these counties grew based from out-of-state move-ins as opposed to just moving from one city to another.

    What cities grew the most and was there a "business" reason ... in other words a new (or an expanding) business would generate new residents ... conversely, if any business shutdown, residents might leave.

    Also, it might be interesting to note the impact of foreign immigrants ... haven't some cities (St. Paul, Sleepy Eye, Owatonna, Rochester to name a few) seen growth that way.

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