Bad news, good news about demographic changes in rural MN

U.S. Politics and the Iron RangeRecently we’ve explored the idea that while population has declined over the past 30 years in places like Northern Minnesota and other rural locations, not all the trends are negative. Young professionals have gradually returned to rural Minnesota in numbers significant enough to merit discussion about how we do economic development, generally.

That’s why this recent Jeff Guo story, “The areas of the U.S. with a troubling shortage of young people,” in the Washington Post caught my eye (which I heard about through Rust Wire).

There are three maps. The first shows population trends since 1970. This one will look familiar. Northern and rural Minnesota lost significant population, along with most of the Midwest, much of New England and Rust Belt cities.

When zeroing in on “young people,” aged 25-34, the bread and butter of new families and growing businesses, the news still looks bad. Since 1970, the area has still lost population among that age group. But, you’ll note, the rate of attrition is lower than the overall population losses.

The third map is where the magic happens. This graphic tracks young people as a percentage of the overall population. In this, most of rural Minnesota has held its ground since 1970 or, in most cases, improved — sometimes dramatically. It is in this map that you see the difference between Northern Minnesota and Northern Michigan, or Northern Minnesota and Appalachia.

Check it out for yourself.

In short, Northern Minnesota really is poised better than most regions for the kind of development that doesn’t rely on retirees or government aid. We’ve got healthy young people and young families, more than people think; now we must unlock their potential.

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