From countryside to suburbs, Minnesota’s diversity has grown in the past decade


As she and her daughter browsed stalls selling hair knots and vegetables at the Oakdale Farmers Market last week, she said they found what they were looking for here. Turner, who is white and whose husband is African American, said they landed in a diverse neighborhood with more amenities – and one where they ultimately got a home after outbidding nine other properties.

A few stalls down, Oscar Hernández sold burritos and tortas from his food truck Taqueria Los Paisanos and reflected on the evolution of his community.

“I have lived here for almost 18 years and I can see how the population is more diverse,” Hernández said. “There are more Asians, more Hispanics, all from different cultures.”

Oakdale is one of a group of suburbs north and east of St. Paul that have experienced some of the biggest diversity jumps in the metropolitan area, according to new census data. But racial and ethnic diversity has not only increased around the Twin Cities over the past decade. The percentage of people who identified as a non-white race has increased in all parts of the state, from farming countries along the Iowa border to small towns along the North Coast.

Almost a quarter of Minnesotans are black, native or of color, up from just 10% of the state’s population in 2000. Minority residents have accounted for all of the state’s growth over the past decade, because the number of non-Hispanic white residents fell for the first time ever – a change that may be due, in part, to more people identifying themselves as multiracial.

Some cities and counties are diversifying much faster than others. Suburbs like Maplewood, North St. Paul, Landfall and Oakdale have seen some of the biggest increases in their diversity index scores in metropolitan areas. This index measures the likelihood that two randomly selected people in a community are of different races and ethnicities.

Maplewood Mayor Marylee Abrams said that during her two and a half decades of living in the city, she has seen examples of growing diversity “everywhere. Everywhere.” In the local school district, two-thirds of students identified as a race other than white, or two or more races. At Maplewood Mall, the number of businesses owned by people of color has increased.

Town leaders, vendors and local buyers at the Oakdale Farmers’ Market have listed many of the same reasons more people of color live in the area, including good schools, proximity to family and, like Abrams described it, “Very attractive affordable housing opportunities here. on the East Side that they may not have been able to find in Minneapolis and St. Paul. “

But even more than the Metro North, Waite Park saw the biggest increase in its Diversity Index. The St. Cloud suburb has grown from 18% non-white in 2010 to 42% in 2020. St. Cloud has also seen a sharp increase in diversity, with its population of color doubling to 32%. About half of Waite Park’s housing stock is multi-family units, and this housing appeals to many families of color, as well as the city’s commercial, industrial and commercial presence and many privately owned businesses. minorities, said city administrator Shaunna Johnson.

An influx of Somali immigrants and Somali Americans is a big reason for the change in St. Cloud and Waite Park, said associate professor of political science Pedro dos Santos, who sits on the board of #UniteCloud, an organization aimed at resolving racial, religious and other differences. His family moved to St. Cloud four years ago from a small town in Iowa.

The city’s growing diversity is part of what drew him to a job there, said dos Santos, a Brazilian immigrant who said he wanted his children to see “there are different ways of being. a child and grow up “.

“There are growing pains that arise when there are demographic changes,” he said of his community. “I moved here knowing there are ‘problems’ but excited that these are in fact problems that have solutions and will eventually get better, as people will realize they just have to live with each other. “

In the southwest corner of the state, Nobles County – home to Worthington – has seen the largest percentage jump of any county in its non-white population. County Commissioner Gene Metz said the region had started to change with an influx of refugees from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War, and now many Hispanic and Karen immigrants were moving to Nobles County. .

The local meat packaging industry has grown over the past 10 years, continuing to attract workers, as well as other agricultural and construction work, Metz said. The number of different languages ​​and dialects spoken in meat packing plants and schools has created challenges, he said. “But we wouldn’t survive without it,” he said. “Because the workforce we need to keep our agricultural economy strong depends on it. “

While census data shows an increase in diversity, experts say communities of color have always been underestimated and 2020 probably was no exception. Minnesota had the highest census response rate in the country at 75%, helping it narrowly retain its eight seats in Congress.

“The highest in the country, yeah, clap, clap, clap. But guess who are the 25% who didn’t do the auto-response? … people of color, because of fear, or people in rural areas too, because of the lack of connectivity to [the] Internet, ”said Monica Hurtado, one of many who urged historically underrated communities to participate.

She almost did not get involved, fearing it could lead to internal security raids or deportations in the Latino community. But when she learned more about data privacy and heard a vital fact, she changed her mind. In 2010, she said there was significant undercoverage in northern Minneapolis, where she lives. As a result, she said the community had lost millions of dollars in government funding – something she wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Hurtado, who is from Colombia, examined her ancestors and discovered that she was indigenous and European. She was among a growing number of people across the country who noted they were more than one race on their census forms.

Minnesota saw the number of people who described themselves as multiracial drop from 1% of the population in 2000 to 2% a decade later. It is now at 4%.

“I see the number of multiracial people and I think those people were there. We didn’t have a huge baby boom,” said Carolyn Liebler, associate professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. But she said heightened racial awareness after George Floyd’s murder may have made a difference.

“People who self-identified as white – the thing about when 2020 made them decide to report their multiple races.”

Liebler said fewer people identifying only as white likely contributed to the small drop in the number of first-time non-Hispanic white Minnesotans. The Census Bureau has also provided more space for people to describe their race.

Minnesota remains significantly less diverse than the country as a whole. But of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas in the United States, Metropolitan Council researchers said the Twin Cities were the 10th in percentage growth for people of color.

Racial minorities made up the majority of residents in 17 cities in the state with populations of 500 or more, including St. Paul and Pelican Rapids. And in the metropolitan area alone, there are 24 cities where the majority of children are black, native or colored, said Met Council research director Joel Huting.

“Overall, the region’s young people – or those under 18 – are 46% of BIPOC,” Huting said. “If you want to know what the future will look like, look to the young people.”

Data writer MaryJo Webster contributed to this report.

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