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People keep migrating to Minnesota—unlike the rest of the Midwest

The Midwest has lost more people to other parts of the country than it gained for 15 years. Minnesota is starting to turn that around. So what happened?

The Midwest has lost more people to other parts of the country than it gained for 15 years. Minnesota is starting to turn that around. So what happened? Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune

Scoot over. Minnesota’s growing.

That’s clear in the numbers presented in the state’s economic forecast released last week. Between 2017 and 2018, Minnesota’s population increased by 0.8 percent, or about 43,000 people. For some comparison, the U.S. population in total increased by about 0.6 percent during the same time.

Most of that growth is what the report calls “natural” increase, or having more folks who were born than folks who died—26,000 more, to be exact. And although fewer people moved to Minnesota from other countries than in years past, the state still got a net increase of 10,700 international immigrants between 2017 and 2018.

Minnesota has also managed to do something most of the rest of the Midwest hasn’t: gain residents from other states.

Some 8,000 out-of-staters moved to Minnesota in 2017, and another 7,000 moved here the following year. Meanwhile, the rest of the Midwest region lost about 318,400 people through migration to other parts of the U.S. The only other Midwest state to beat the drain was Indiana, and as the report puts it, Minnesota's gain was “nearly double” what Indiana got.

The back-to-back years of growth marked the end of Minnesota’s 15-year “losing streak”—of its people, to other states, as the Pioneer Press reported in 2018. 

State Demographer Susan Brower noted the flow of people into Minnesota coincided with a parallel phenomenon happening in Illinois. The state lost about 115,000 from domestic net migration in 2017. According to MinnPost, ex-Chicagoans who ended up in the Twin Cities often said they came for “economic opportunity” and “to be closer to family.”

But as Brower told the PiPress, also it’s often difficult to say why exactly young people move to one place and not another. It’s not always about economic opportunities or social networks.

“It’s hard to pinpoint any clear trend from any one year, but it’s great to see a positive number,” she said.

Minnesota, like the rest of the nation, is dealing with a declining birth rate and an imminent exit of boomers from the workplace. In the past, we’ve been able to rely on immigration from other countries to keep the economy going, but that growth has started to peter out, too. We need as many people as we can get.

Whatever X factor that has made Minnesota attractive for the past few years, let’s hope it keeps working.