Minnesota's racial geography shifting

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2012 - 10:52 PM

Minnesota's outstate cities show striking contrasts, census finds.

hide

Carlos Hernandez, far right, the trim floor trainer at Swift & Company, trained new employees on how to use the knives during the second shift at the Worthington, Minnesota meat processing plant in 2006.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Minnesota has some of the most extreme examples of racial and ethnic change -- and changelessness -- in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

The area in and around Alexandria remains whiter than all but three of the nation's several hundred "micropolitan areas," a new Census Bureau invention meant to isolate small but regionally important population centers.

But of that same group, Worthington in the past decade saw the single fastest drop in its white population, accompanied by the fourth-fastest leap in Hispanic residents.

The numbers suggest that a different racial geography is developing across rural Minnesota, as aging whites head north to the lakes and young immigrants flood into, and have children in, other key regional centers in the center and south.

If they weren't attracting minorities, many of Minnesota's 16 micropolitan areas would be seeing outright declines in population.

"It's amazing to see the numbers coming out of school districts like Worthington or Willmar," said Myron Orfield, director of a University of Minnesota research institute that tracks racial change. "And really those places are a lot more integrated than the Twin Cities: They have to get along and share the same facilities, and in a certain sense are even happy to have the new people, while folks here seem more resentful."

The Twin Cities area has multiple times more growth in people of color than all of the cities in the rest of the state combined. But even much smaller numbers in areas unaccustomed to the change can reverberate.

According to the report, the nonwhite population of the St. Cloud metro area went from 7,860, or less than 5 percent of the population, to 16,740, almost 9 percent, between 2000 and 2010.

The census report, "Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010," singles out two Upper Midwest micropolitan areas, Alexandria (97 percent) and Spirit Lake, Iowa (98 percent), as ranking among the top five whitest of their kind in the United States.

In Alexandria, the city has is working with other groups to encourage more diversity. Karin Tank, city staff liaison to Alexandria's committee on cultural inclusiveness, said the city got involved after reports that "even in the medical community, or engineering positions, companies were recruiting nationally and then having a hard time keeping people [of color] here because they don't feel welcome. They like the community, they appreciate the job, but they don't feel they have a place here so they aren't staying. That's all anecdotal, but that's what we were hearing."

Worthington is singled out in the Census Bureau report for experiencing -- after decades of gradual change -- the largest single drop in its white population, from 83 percent of its total to 67 percent. That's a drop in raw numbers of nearly 3,000 people in a decade, at a time when the overall micropolitan population grew slightly.

At the same time, the number of Hispanics more than doubled, to more than 4,800, the fifth-fastest increase by share of population among the nation's micropolitan areas and the fastest in the Upper Midwest.

Nor is it just Hispanics. Worthington has immigrants from all over the globe, said Lakeyta Potter, integration and youth development coordinator for the local school district.

Although Hispanics are most numerous, she said, "it's Ethiopian, Oromo, Eritrean, Sudanese, folks from Ghana, from Uganda, from Laos, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand," with a Swift meatpacking plant as the main draw.

As a black woman who grew up in southwest Minnesota, in Windom and Worthington, Potter said she doesn't perceive the drop in whites as a form of flight in reaction to the growth in minorities, but rather the combination of aging and departures that are common in farm country.

"Worthington has come a long way with being more open and understanding of many different cultures," she said.

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

  • TO LEARN MORE

    Go to www.census.gov/population/metro/data/c2010sr-01patterns.html

    2010 2000

    Total pop. Minorities Total pop. Minorities

    METROPOLITAN AREAS

    Duluth 279,771 22,690 275,486 16,184

    Mankato 96,740 8,402 85,712 4,687

    Twin Cities 3,279,833 701,716 2,968,806 454,312

    Rochester 186,011 26,171 163,618 15,078

    St. Cloud 189,093 16,740 167,392 7,860 "MICROPOLITAN" AREAS

    Growing (ranked by growth numbers)

    Brainerd 91,067 6,705 82,249 5,292

    Faribault-Northfield 64,142 9,576 56,665 5,408

    Bemidji 44,442 11,376 39,650 9,407

    Alexandria 36,009 1,035 32,821 605

    Owatonna 36,576 4,032 33,680 2,266

    Red Wing 46,183 3,156 44,127 1,722

    Hutchinson 36,651 2,646 34,898 1,790

    Winona 51,461 3,633 49,985 2,463

    Willmar 42,239 6,275 41,203 3,991

    Austin 39,163 6,188 38,603 2,719

    Worthington 21,378 7,013 20,832 3,600

    Marshall 25,857 3,220 25,425 2,087

    Fergus Falls 57,303 3,059 57,159 2,022

    Shrinking Fairmont 20,840 1,074 21,802 702

    New Ulm 25,893 1,231 26,911 831

    Albert Lea 31,255 3,554 32,584 2,523

    Source: U.S. Census Bureau

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Timberwolves win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close