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On net, 65 people moved to Minnesota from other states last year

On Monday, I asked whether state government policy could do anything about Minnesota’s below average population growth. Population growth is set to fall across the United States and more steeply than that in Minnesota. New data from the Census Bureau on population change for 2019 allows us to take a closer look at this.

Between 2000 and 2018, Minnesota’s population grew by 13.7%, slightly below the rate for the United States as a whole, 16.0% as Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1: Change in population, Minnesota and United States, 2000=100 

Source: Census Bureau

Figure 2 uses Census Bureau data, including those newly released numbers for 2019, to show what have been the drivers of that change.

Population change can come from three sources: one is ‘natural’ causes, the difference between births and deaths; second is net international migration, the difference between the numbers of people coming into or going out of Minnesota from abroad; the third is net domestic migration, the difference between the numbers of people coming into or going out of Minnesota from other states.

Since 2010, births have outstripped deaths by an average of 28,000 annually, so ‘natural’ changes have added to Minnesota’s population. Over the same period, international migration has seen an average net positive balance of 12,600 people annually (including me), which also adds to the state’s population.

Domestic migration tells a slightly different story. Minnesota lost residents to other states on every year from 2001 to 2016. In 2017 and 2018, this changed, and more people moved here from other states than left Minnesota for other states. This news had some of our more excitable news outlets outlets popping the champagne corks. Alas, this may have been premature. The Census Bureau data for 2019 shows that net domestic migration slumped from 6,769 in 2018 to just 65 in 2019.

Figure 2: Components of Minnesota’s population change

Source: Census Bureau

This was better than some states. New York, Illinois, West Virginia, Louisiana, Connecticut, Mississippi, Hawaii, New Jersey, Alaska, and Vermont all saw their populations decline. Minnesota also saw greater population growth in terms of raw numbers than any of its neighbors.

But Minnesota isn’t just competing for residents with the states next door. It is in competition with states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia, the five states with population growth in 2019 greater than 100,000.

As I noted on Monday, we might not be able to compete with some of these states in terms of the weather, so we need public policies which will tilt the table back in our favor.

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

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