ASk A Researcher

July 2013

Annual population estimates tell interesting stories about North Dakota's growth patterns

Megan Chmielewski, Research Associate

photoMost people are aware of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census that every American household fills out once a decade, but fewer are aware that the Census Bureau puts out Population Estimates every year, using birth, death, and migration rates to estimate the population of the United States by age, sex, race, and ethnicity at all geography levels. It turns out a lot can happen between one census and the next! Megan Chmielewski, a researcher with Minnesota Compass and Wilder Research, shares some interesting patterns the estimates bring to light for North Dakota.

At the national level, nearly all states, including North Dakota, saw their total population increase from 2000 to 2010, but a look at Population Estimates through 2012 reveals a very interesting picture.

Population in the United States has grown fairly steadily over the past twelve years.  In North Dakota, however, the oil boom has fueled an exponential increase in the state’s population in the last seven years:

However, that growth has not been uniform across the state, or across demographic groups.  North Dakota Compass has several graphs on county-level population and change, including one that shows huge population growth in major cities and in the oil-rich western regions of the state coupled with population decline in other regions.

High population growth in the “oil boom” region, however, looks very different from population growth in the major cities.  As you can see below, the populations in Burleigh and Cass counties (home to Bismarck and Fargo) have grown steadily since 2000.  But oil-rich Williams County shows a very different pattern, with little growth in the first half of the 2000s, followed by exponential growth starting around 2005.  Nearby McKenzie and Mountrail Counties have seen a similar growth pattern.

Population growth in the western region is also remarkable for its demographic patterns.  While growth in Fargo and Bismarck has been driven equally by men and women, growth in the oil-producing regions has been overwhelming driven by men.  As you can see in the chart below, the male population in Williams County began to increase around 2004, but the female population did not follow suit until three years later.

As might be expected, population growth in Williams and other “oil boom” counties has been driven primarily by people of working age, with growth in youth populations coming later. 

Unlike in urban counties like Cass, where the 65+ population is growing significantly, the senior population is holding steady or even declining in Williams and other “oil boom” counties.

Population growth by race looks different in North Dakota’s western counties as well.  Whereas people of color accounted for a majority of population growth in most of the state, population growth in Williams, Mountrail, and McKenzie counties was greater among non-Hispanic whites than among persons of color.

Outside of the cities and the oil-rich western regions, population has generally held steady or declined over the past twelve years. With the exception of Sioux County, located entirely within the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and four counties in the “oil boom” region (Billings, Dunn, McKenzie, and Mountrail), all counties with populations of less than 12,000 in 2000 saw their populations decline over the past 12 years.

Overall population change between decennial censuses rarely tells the whole story, particularly when that change is driven by an unusual natural or economic event.  Breaking the data down further yields valuable information about the way that a population is changing, which can help inform decisions around housing, business development, social services, and more.

If you are interested in looking at population change over the past decade in your own county or region, take a look at the Data & Notes section of any North Dakota Compass graph.  This under-utilized feature lets users see the detailed data behind the chart, and even download that data to Excel so that you can create your own charts and graphs to tell your story.

Ask a researcher archive

Nancy Hodur: Improving Oral Health for Older Adults in North Dakota
November 2018

Rachelle Vettern: Engaging Volunteers across Generations
October 2018

Karen Olson: The 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book reveals strengths and challenges for children in North Dakota – and emphasizes that an inaccurate census in 2020 threatens to worsen existing challenges for North Dakota youth
July 2018

Lori Capouch: Is food access a concern in rural North Dakota?
May 2018

Deb Nelson: Williston Basin 2016: Employment, Population, and Housing Forecasts – An Overview
January 2018

Karen Olson: North Dakota among Top 10 States in Country for Child Well-Being
July 2017

Nancy Hodur: SEAL!North Dakota: A School Dental Sealant Program
June 2017

Grace Njau: A Brief Introduction to the North Dakota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)
April 2017

Ina Cernusca: North Dakota’s Women study: A brief overview
March 2017

Dean Bangsund: Effects of Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion on Spring Planting for Producers
February 2017

Deb Nelson: Vision West: Leading, Educating, and Collaborating to Mobilize the 19 Western North Dakota Counties Towards Resilience and Prosperity
December 2016

Nancy Hodur: North Dakota Statewide Housing Needs Assessment: A Brief Overview of the Population and Housing Forecast component
November 2016

Social Isolation: Experiential Narratives of African Refugee Women in the Fargo-Moorhead Community
September 2016

Sean Brotherson: Father Involvement and the Future of Children and Families
July 2016

Carol Cwiak: Bakken Oil: What Have We Learned and What Will We Do Differently Next Time
June 2016

Jessica Creuzer: The Changing Face of Western North Dakota: What are the Effects of Increased Travel from Energy Development
April 2016

ND Compass: City Profiles
February 2016

ND Department of Health: Making Change Happen
January 2016

Jennifer Weber: A Bold New Direction for the North Dakota University System - The NDUS Edge Dashboards
December 2015

Wendy Troop-Gordon: What Has Science Taught Us About Bullying?
November 2015

ND Compass: A Look at the Youngest North Dakotans
October 2015

Kendra Erickson-Dockter: Growing Older in North Dakota
September 2015

Michael Ziesch: Data You Can Trust: The Labor Market Information Center
August 2015

Malini Srivastava and Troy Raisanen: efargo: City Scale Sustainability
July 2015

Kevin Iverson: The State Repository of Census Information- The North Dakota Census
June 2015

Wonwoo Byun: Reducing Sedentary Behavior is a Key for Obesity Prevention in Children
May 2015

Kathryn Gordon: The Science of Suicide Prevention
April 2015

ND Compass: Tell a Story with Data! The Importance of Crade-to-Career Success
March 2015

Abby Gold: Community Food Systems: Food Charters and More
February 2015

Heather Fuller-Iglesias: The Importance of Recognizing the Role of Social Support in Human Development Across the Lifespan
January 2015

Michael Carbone: Using Data to End Homelessness
December 2014

Randal Coon: Tribal Colleges Contribute to the State's Economy
November 2014

Deb White: Women's Representation in Elected Office
October 2014

Randal Coon: Pull Factors Measure Retail Trade Performance
September 2014

Karen Olson: North Dakota ranks Well Nationally with Regard to Overall Child Well-Being; However, Substantial Opportunities for Improvement Exist
August 2014

Julie Garden-Robinson: Guard Against Grilling Gaffes: Healthy Grilling and Food Safety Tips
July 2014

Michael Noone: Extreme Weather Patterns- North Dakota Has It All
June 2014

Kathleen Tweeten: Why All Community Development Decisions Should Use the Community Capitals Framework
May 2014

Clayton Hilmert: Stress effects on pregnancy: The impact of the 2009 Red River flood on birth weight
April 2014

Karen Ehrens: Food Deserts and how they impact North Dakota
March 2014

Gretchen Dobervich and Kendra Erickson-Dockter: New Geographic Profiles: How they can work for you
February 2014

Compass Staff: "New Compass Team Brings Changes in 2014"
January 2014

Donna Grandbois: "Fargo-Moorhead American Indian Community-Sponsored Health Needs Assessment"
November 2013

Karen Olson: "North Dakota KIDS COUNT - why it counts for you
October 2013

Nancy Hodur: "Western North Dakota School Administrators Face Challenges"
August 2013

Megan Chmielewski: "Annual population estimates tell interesting stories about North Dakota's growth patterns"
July 2013

Ramona Danielson: "Learn how to make the ND Compass website work for you"
May 2013

Karen Olson: "About the American Community Survey (ACS)"
February 2013

North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

© 2019. All rights reserved.