The westward migration to North Dakota ...

  • Blog Post by: Jeremy Olson
  • April 18, 2012 - 1:23 PM

Traveling via train across North Dakota last week, I met a woman in the dining car who had recently moved with her husband and kids from Hawaii to Williston, N.D. The housing industry had bottomed out on the big island, she told me, and the prospect of jobs in oil rich North Dakota were too tempting to pass up.

Real estate prices have been rising, because of the oil boom in the western part of the state, so her family opted to live cheaply in what is accurately referred to as a "man camp" -- a series of mobile homes and trailer homes set out in the plains near the oil wells. (Here's an example of one such camp in ND, courtesy of a recent Bloomberg Newsweek issue.)

For her teen kids, there were pros. They could make a killing working at McDonalds, because the fast food restaurant was so short of help. And there were cons. She worried about her daughter surrounded by a somewhat swarthy cast of oil rig workers. Grocery runs to Wal-Mart also take hours, because there aren't enough workers to staff the checkout lines.

Her story isn't all that unique. Families and workers are flowing into North Dakota as fast as oil is flowing out. And Minnesota is the chief exporter. Census data showed that roughly 12,350 people who lived in Minnesota in 2009 moved to North Dakota in 2010. While migration is expected among border states, Minnesota only gained 7,316 North Dakotans that year.

The rate of change is also startling. In 2005, only 5,751 Minnesotans made the move to North Dakota.That 6,500 person increase in state-to-state migration from 2005 to 2010 was one of the sharpest in the nation. Most states saw migration screech to a halt over that timeframe, because the recession put a damper on job-related moves. Here are the biggest state-to-state migration changes from 2005 to 2010 (subject to some sampling margins of error):

  1. +10,543 from New Jersey to New York (24,790 people made this move in 2005, compared to 35,333 in 2010)

  2. +10,378 from Texas to Louisiana (15,756 moved in 2005 compared to 26,134 in post-Katrina 2010)

  3. +7,957 from Alaska to Texas (3,656 in 2005 to 11,613 to 2011. Two states with mobile military families.)

  4. +7,149 from North Carolina to Virginia (16,680 moved in 2005 compared to 23,829 in 2010)

  5. +6,609 from California to New York (18,568 moved in 2005 compared to 25,177 in 2010) 

  6. +6,599 from Minnesota to North Dakota (5,751 moved in 2005 compared to 12,350 in 2010)


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