Metro area will take on new face

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 19, 2012 - 9:28 AM

Met Council forecasts that by 2040 the seven-county area will be a very different place.

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Ger Vang, left, and his wife, Kai Yang Vang, right, fed lunch to their children at the family business, Three Brothers Grocery, in St. Paul.

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It's a future where four of 10 residents are minorities, the fastest-growing households are single parents and retirees increase faster than workers.

That's the Twin Cities in 2040, according to a forecast released Wednesday that points to the region's potential even as it prompts questions about how its needs will change.

The report by the Metropolitan Council predicts that the seven-county metro area will gain almost 900,000 people by 2040, and its economic output is expected to outpace other population centers its size.

"Migration for economic reasons will be a strong factor in our expected population growth," Met Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh said.

The report predicts the arrival of 463,000 international immigrants, with 83 percent of them nonwhites.

The share of Twin Cities residents who are black, Asian or otherwise not white will nearly double by 2040, representing 43 percent of the region's population. Haigh said the region's racial profile will look more like its current elementary school enrollment.

The forecast comes as Haigh and the agency embark on initiatives to expand low- and moderate-income housing in the Twin Cities to accommodate the changing population.

While the report highlights the positive effects of the population shifts, it also is expected to provoke questions about the roles of schools, social agencies and government policy in dealing with a new wave of young immigrants.

"It means a significant increase in the need for getting kids ready for school," said Art Rolnick, former research director at the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis. "On average, when these kids start behind, they don't catch up, which means they're a significant drain on school resources, and long term it means a good percentage of these kids don't graduate from high school. For our economy, that's a disaster."

Rolnick said the forecast should pressure public officials to spend more money on providing early help to kids, mentoring and other programs to prepare them for school and improve their odds of succeeding.

The report also shows a trend toward more single-parent families. Single-parent households with children will increase by 62 percent, and the number of people living alone will jump by 55 percent.

In contrast, couples with children will increase by only 21 percent.

"When we go from two adults to one, you just have less time for the children," Rolnick said.

The forecast depicts a metro area experiencing a sharp decline in working-age whites and an even sharper rise in white retirees. Across all racial groups, the senior population will grow from 307,000 to 770,000, a phenomenon posing challenges for housing, health care and transportation.

New ways must be found

"There is just going to have to be a new way to deliver those services and how we pay for them," said State Demographer Susan Brower.

The report projects a continued churn of people moving to and from the Twin Cities and elsewhere, with a net loss of retirees and workers to other metro areas across the nation. The overall population will increase because of births and immigration from abroad.

"People leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul are predominantly white, older ... they look like the Twin Cities of 20 years ago," said Todd Graham, a research analyst for the Met Council.

Minorities will make up 43 percent of the population by 2040, compared with 24 percent in 2010. While whites ages 25 to 64 will decline by 270,000, minority members in that age group will increase by 445,000. Whites ages 15 to 24 also will decline, while minorities will increase by 152,000.

Graham and agency research manager Libby Starling presented their report Wednesday to the Met Council in St. Paul. Some council members asked about the implications for housing from the new populations.

Graham and Starling described divergent trends that could drive a need for different types of housing. They said an increasing number of people living alone or in single-parent households will create a need for smaller multifamily housing. But some immigrants with large households will help sustain demand for larger housing stock.

"The council must plan and be creative to ensure housing is affordable and meets the needs of an aging population," Haigh said in a statement. She has called for an expansion of low- and moderate-income housing, and the agency is devising a major housing plan.

The report noted that the value of all industry output in the Twin Cities in 2040 will equal 1.5 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, even though the metro area will account for 1 percent of the nation's population.

But Graham said the region is "slightly less attractive" than other parts of the country to people who are not moving here for a job.

"We did pretty well in attracting and retaining our talent, but it's going to be a big issue going forward," Brower said.

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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  • More people: 893,000 more residents in 2040 than in 2012

    Immigration: 463,000 new international immigrants

    Diversity: 43 percent of metro residents will be nonwhite in 2040

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