Minnesota population more diverse, aging quickly

11:51 PM, Feb 18, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota remains fairly homogenous compared to the nation as whole, but it's becoming far more ethnically diverse than it was historically.

That's the latest snap shot of population trends was delivered by State Demographer Susan Brower to a House committee Monday at the State Capitol.

"We're becoming more diverse and we're aging, very, very rapidly," Brower told lawmakers.

She said that nearly one in five people in the state are persons of color now, or 17 percent.

That's a category that includes persons who listed themselves in the last federal census as black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American Indian or belonging to multiple ethnic groups. That diversity is more pronounced in younger age brackets.

Minnesota's only half as diverse as the United States as a whole, which has 36 percent persons of color. But the 17 percent figure is significant, when one considers only two percent of the Minnesota's population was comprised of ethnic minorities in 1960.

"A quarter of our children in Minnesota, or 25 percent, are people of color now," Brower explained.

"Younger people, as a group, are more ethnically diverse than the Baby Boomers who are reaching retirement age. Our schools are seeing that diversity now, and it will be reflected in the workforce in the next five, 10, 15 and 20 years."

The origin of the state's immigrant population has also changed markedly in the past 50 years. 

In 1960, at least 88 percent of Minnesota's immigrants told the Census Bureau they were born in Europe. By 2011, that figure was only 12 percent, ranking behind the portion of immigrants who came to Minnesota from Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Another interesting dynamic, 31 percent of babies born in 2011 were born to unmarried mothers, but only 16 percent of children in the state live in single-mother households.

"That is just part of this larger social trend that we're seeing, where marriage doesn't necessarily come before child bearing," Brower explained to lawmakers.

She said there is a wide financial disparity between two-parent households and single female-headed households. The median income of households with children under 18 ranges from $90,000 for some two-parent households to $25,000 for those headed by a single female.

As Baby Boomers retire in the next two decades, the share of the state population age 65 and older will expand rapidly. Her research staff projects 285,000 Minnesotans will join that 65-plus category during this decade, and 335,000 will go into that column during the 2020's.

"Those Baby Boomers are a huge cohort we have here in Minnesota, and many are just about to move over the 65 year old age mark."

That will affect state policy on healthcare and long-term care services and transportation, among other things.

Many of the aging will stay in Minnesota, too, based on another interesting feature of the state's demographics. Fully 69 percent of Minnesota's population is made up of people who were born here.

The fact that Susan Brower is now the demographer, instead Tom Gillaspy, the longtime demographer who retired in 2011, points to another demographic trend. Minnesota's workforce is aging, as well as the government work force.

"We're a small office of four people, but three of our people retired in the last two years," Brower said.

"These were long-term employees with 20-years of experience. We're very much a microcosm of what's going on in state government."

In fact, in Brower's division of state government, the Department of Administration, 42 percent of employees are ages 55 or older. If you factor in that 61 is the average age of retirement for state workers, the department is in for a lot of turnover.

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