The U.S. Census Bureau released data Thursday from its American Community Survey that provides the most granular detail available about how life is changing in even the smallest places in the U.S.

The data is based on surveys conducted between 2011 and 2015, asking Americans a series of questions about their demographics, household structure, income, jobs, family and housing. 

Researchers in a number of state agencies are still sifting through the data, but here are a few early findings from comparing the 2011-2015 period with the prior five-year span.

EDUCATION

A larger share of Minnesotans have a bachelor's degree, but the rise was concentrated in urban areas. This includes not only the Twin Cities, but also other cities around the state such as Duluth, Rochester and St. Cloud. This urban-rural difference likely stems from the fact that younger people, who are more educated than previous generations, tend to live in cities.

AGING

The state is also growing older now that baby boomers are surpassing age 65, but this trend is particularly evident in certain areas. The median age for the state as a whole held steady at about 38. But the median age in rural areas is now almost 44, compared with 40 in the prior five-year period.

Twin Cities suburban counties also aged faster than Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

State Demographer Susan Brower said 55 of the state’s 87 counties saw an increase in the share of households with a person age 65 or older. About 40 percent of the state’s counties saw a decrease in labor force participation, which is likely due to baby boomers retiring, she said.

“You’re actually seeing those transitions that we’ve been talking about forever start to play out in this data set,” Brower said.

HOUSING

The percentage of homes in the state that are owner-occupied continued to fall. Brower said the state's homeownership rate, now at 72 percent, is just barely above the lowest level in recent history.

At the same time, the share of mortgaged homeowners who were cost-burdened, meaning they spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, declined significantly. Nearly half of renters, however, were cost-burdened, and that is largely unchanged compared with the previous five-year period.

 

Data Drop is a weekly feature that uses data analysis and visualizations to explain, surprise, inform and entertain readers on topics relevant to Minnesotans. Do you have an idea you'd like us to explore? Contact MaryJo Webster