MINNEAPOLIS — New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Asians and other minority groups are the main driver of Minnesota's modest population growth, but the state remains less racially diverse than the country as a whole.
Asians make up the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the state, according to data released Thursday. Hmong make up the largest part of that segment, followed by immigrants from India. But only about 17 percent of Minnesota's residents are minorities, compared with 30 percent of the nation as a whole. Blacks remain Minnesota's largest minority group, followed by Hispanics, Asians and American Indians.
Between 2010 and 2012, Minnesota's minority population increased faster than the population as a whole — growing by about 6 percent compared with a national growth rate of 4 percent. And it's growing even faster among the youngest of the state's residents. The state's total population rose by about 1 percent in that same period, but the number of white residents increased by just one-quarter of 1 percent.
The state's Asian population has increased 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. State demographer Susan Brower said the increase of 7,750 Asian residents in that single year was mostly the result of births to families already in Minnesota, but it was also driven by a new wave of immigrants from India.
"Part of the reason why there has been a somewhat more rapid increase in the Indian population here is that many of them of late are in the information technology area," University of Minnesota economics professor V.V. Chari said, himself an immigrant from India who noted that Target and Best Buy are among the local companies that have attracted workers from India.
The growing minority population is not just in the Twin Cities metro area. Thirty-four of the state's 87 counties have minority populations of 10 percent or more, up from 27 counties two years ago.
Mostly suburban Scott County remains the growth leader in the state, with its overall 4 percent population growth fueled by strong domestic migration and births. Fifty of the state's 87 counties lost population, largely due to more people leaving than coming in. But half of those counties also had more deaths than births.
In recent years, birth rates have dropped for all racial groups in Minnesota. Brower said that partly reflects people deciding not to have children during the economic slump, but it also shows the "Minnesotanization" of immigrants who over time decided not to have the large families that their parents did.
"Recession is a short-term effect," she said. "But the longer immigrants are in Minnesota, the more they tend to have family patterns that are more similar to those of native Minnesotans. You see it happening in the second generation."