Minnesota's population growth between 2000 and 2010 was driven by an increase in minority residents, especially Hispanics, Census Bureau numbers released Wednesday show.

Minorities accounted for more than 80 percent of the state's growth, and now make up about one of every seven state residents. In 2000, minorities made up 10.6 percent of the population.

While the change is a big one for Minnesota -- the number of Hispanics in the state jumped by 74 percent to more than 250,000, and the black population rose by 61 percent to almost 328,000 -- the state remains one of the nation's most homogenous. More than 85 percent of Minnesota's 5.3 million people are white.

"Most of our population change this last decade is people of color," State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said. "We are becoming more diverse, but we're still one of the least diverse states in the country."

The state's population is more centered than ever on the Twin Cities area. Almost six of every 10 Minnesotans now live in the 11 counties clustered around Minneapolis and St. Paul, while western, northwestern and northeastern Minnesota are losing residents as young people leave and don't return.

While populations in the heart of the Twin Cities barely budged -- Hennepin County's population rose by 3 percent, while Ramsey County's dropped by one-half of 1 percent -- it surged to the south and west and along the Wisconsin border.

Leading the way was Scott County, whose population rose more than 45 percent, followed by Wright County at almost 39 percent, Sherburne County at 37 percent and Chisago County at 31 percent.

Other metro-area county population increases were Anoka, 11 percent; Dakota, 12 percent, and Washington, 18 percent.

2 snapshots a recession apart

The census numbers -- snapshots taken 10 years apart -- mask the effects of the more recent economic slowdown, Gillaspy said. The census covered seven years of spectacular growth and three years of the worst recession since the Great Depression, he said. Explosive growth in counties like Scott and Wright has now shrunk to the small but steady levels experienced in places like Hennepin County.

"That 10-year period really glosses over some big shifts," Gillaspy said. "Even though the housing crisis started in the central cities, it very quickly leapfrogged to the outside areas."

The census information released Wednesday includes race and voting-age population broken down to block-level geographic areas. It will most immediately be used to redraw political district boundaries to more accurately reflect population shifts.

Up and downs in the suburbs

Among the state's 20 most populous cities, Woodbury grew at the fastest rate, with population increasing by one-third over the decade to almost 62,000 people. Lakeville, with nearly a 30 percent growth rate, and Blaine at 27 percent were next.

Minneapolis' population, which fell by just 40 residents in the decade, is 382,578 people. St. Paul dropped by almost 2,100 residents and now has a population of just over 285,068.

Many mature suburbs, including Bloomington, Minnetonka and Coon Rapids, lost population in the past decade, and were joined by other older suburbs that saw growth in the previous decade. Some city officials linked the change to an aging population and smaller household sizes.

Overall, the state's population rose 7.8 percent. The white population grew by less than 3 percent, while the state's Asian population rose by 52 percent. Most of Minnesota's minority population remains concentrated in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but as communities of color mature they are scattering to suburbs.

Brooklyn Center is now believed to be the first metro city with a majority (51 percent) of residents from minority groups. Other diverse suburbs are Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Eden Prairie, Richfield, Burnsville and Woodbury.

Hispanics, who now make up 4.7 percent of the population, are dispersed statewide. That's largely because of job opportunities in industries like meatpacking in southwestern cities such as Worthington and St. James.

Statewide, large swaths of western counties along the border with South Dakota are bleeding residents, as are some counties in the state's northwest and northeast corners. Counties that lost more than 10 percent of their populations between 2000 and 2010 include Faribault, Traverse, Lake of the Woods and Kittson. The state's most severe population loss was in Swift County, with an 18 percent drop.

Among larger outstate cities, Rochester grew by 24 percent to nearly 107,000 people, becoming the state's third city to top that mark. Duluth dropped by nearly 1 percent to 86,265 residents. The census reported a 51 percent decline in Appleton, largely because of a prison that closed.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380