The city vanishes

The dramatic drop in enrollment at Minneapolis public schools is a leading indicator of the city’s eventual decline.

Two decades ago (2002-2003 school year), Minneapolis ranked in the top 100 largest American school districts with a total enrollment of over 46,000 students. The number has fallen to 31,598 in the most recent count (2021-2022). That represents a one-third reduction in school population in less than 20 years.

The school district shrank at the same time the city, overall, was staging a minor population comeback. In the 2010 census, Minneapolis reported a population of 382,000. In the 2020 census, the population increased to almost 430,000, a gain of more than 12 percent.

The city’s population peaked in the census of 1950 at 521,718. At that time, Minneapolis hosted 17 percent of the state’s population. This figure is now 7 percent.

In the past year (2021), the city’s population has dropped by a few thousand to 425,000.

The city’s median age has hovered around 32 years old (younger than the state and national averages) for a number of years. Median age in the city has remained steady, even as the city’s share of under 18 population has slipped to less than 20 percent in 2020, below the national average of over 22 percent.

So how can a city be both younger than average and have fewer children? Minneapolis hosts a disproportionate number of people in the their 20’s, as reported by Census Reporter:

To grow its population, Minneapolis must attract an endless stream of post-college, single adults. As these adults pair up, or age out, they tend to leave the City, as the population chart above shows.

Minneapolis looks a lot like west coast Seattle, as a young adult playground with few children:

Compare this profile to the sunbelt city of Phoenix, AZ. Both have similar median ages, but the larger Phoenix has a much more balanced population:

Phoenix is much more successful in attracting and retaining young families. Perhaps surprising for a location with a reputation as a retirement destination.

Compared to other cities, Minneapolis resembles college-town Madison, Wisconsin more closely than midwestern center Kansas City:

If the children are the future, Minneapolis doesn’t have one.