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North Dakota among top 5 states for population growth from 2010 to 2020

North Dakota's population grew by 106,503 from 2010 to 2020, according to census figures, ranking it in the top five in percentage gains. North Dakota's official population as of 2020 was 779,094.

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An apartment building is under construction Friday, March 19, 2021, at 3704 42nd. St. S., Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO — North Dakota’s population soared by more than 100,000 from 2010 to 2020 — the fastest population growth the state has seen in more than a century.

Census figures released on Monday, April 26, indicate North Dakota has a population of 779,094. That’s 106,503 more than the 2010 census count, or an increase of 15.8%, ranking the state in the top five in terms of percentage population growth.

“I am a little surprised,” said Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office. “I had guessed about 10,000 less than that."

North Dakota’s percentage growth of 15.8% was the fourth-largest behind Texas at 15.9%, Idaho at 17.3% and Utah at 18.4%. Among bordering states, Minnesota grew by 7.6%, Montana by 9.6% and South Dakota by 8.9%.

Gov. Doug Burgum said the population surge reflects what the state has to offer workers, families and businesses.

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“The record high 2020 Census count is great news for North Dakota and reaffirms what those of us who live here already know: that our state is a land of abundant opportunity and one of the best places in the nation to live, work and raise and family,” Burgum said.

“As we continue to build healthy, vibrant communities, diversify our economy and invest in infrastructure, innovation and education, North Dakota is poised to continue this pattern of recent growth,” he said.

The only population growth parallel came early in North Dakota's history.

“The last time we grew that much was between 1900 and 1910, when the state grew by 257,910 residents, so it is substantial,” Iverson said. That period coincided with a second wave of homesteading.

An earlier burst of population, the Great Dakota Boom, occurred from 1878 to 1886, when the eastern two-thirds of North Dakota was settled as more than 100,000 immigrants poured into Dakota Territory.

By 1918, almost all of North Dakota was settled.

The population growth reflected in the 2020 census count will mean an increase in federal funding. State officials have estimated that every additional person adds $19,100 in federal funding from programs including Medicare, Medicaid, federal highway funds and education support, he said.

The official census count suggests that estimated population figures for the last few years were too low, Iverson said.

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The Census Bureau estimated North Dakota’s population in 2019 was 763,724 and 765,309 for 2020.

The farther an estimate is from an official census count, the more unreliable it becomes because population dynamics change over time, Iverson said.

The Census Bureau will now refine and review its count and in about two years will issue a report estimating what it missed.

North Dakota’s population growth spurt has coincided with the boom in the Oil Patch in the 2010s. Most of the population gains over the past decade, directly or indirectly, stem from economic activity associated with growth in the petroleum industry, Iverson said.

The state's other major industry, agriculture, does not add appreciably to population growth, he said.

"Agriculture needs fewer and fewer people as time goes on," Iverson said. "Oil has been the big player."

Until then, the state’s population had peaked in 1930 at 680,845. By 2000, North Dakota’s population had dwindled to 641,298, largely due to an outmigration of young people.

Then, the population began to rebound, reaching 674,526 in the 2010 census.

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New census population figures for cities and counties will be released later.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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