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Can policy do anything about Minnesota’s below average population growth?

In our recent report Minnesota’s Workforce to 2050, we looked at the causes, consequences, and possible partial remedies for a labor force which is growing more slowly than in the past. An article in the Star Tribune last weekend – ‘Life in the 2020s: Slower growth will be the new normal in Minnesota‘ – covered similar ground.

It noted that “Minnesota’s population will grow more slowly than ever in the 2020s”. Indeed, this is a nationwide phenomenon; the article also observed that “The U.S. population is expected to grow 6.6% in the 2020s, a slide from 7.5% growth this decade” – a fall of 0.9 percentage points. But the situation is worse in Minnesota. Here, “State demographers forecast 5% growth in the 2020s…That’s down from 7.2% growth in the 2010s” – a fall of 1.2 percentage points.

Minnesota has some handicaps in this race.

Since the start of the 20th century, Minnesota’s population grew at a faster rate than the nation’s in only one decade — the 1930s. Long winters dampen the state’s appeal to people from elsewhere in the U.S. Its distance from the coasts has meant relatively fewer immigrants.

You might add underperforming sports teams to that list of ‘push factors’.

This makes it imperative that, where we can, we use public policy tools to attract, from an economic point of view, productive workers here and retain those we do have. Current Minnesota state policy is not likely to help. In 2016, we reported that Minnesotans were on the move to lower tax states. As the Tax Foundation noted last year, Minnesota’s taxes only serve to compound the push factors of climate and location. And evidence shows that those high taxes are not the price we pay for living in an awesome state.

An intensively employed productive workforce is vital to our state’s continued prosperity. Where Minnesota’s climate and location work against this, public policy has to work even harder to attract and retain productive workers and citizens. Our high taxes are an obstacle to that. We have no idea how to help with the sports teams though.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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