Ask A Researcher

November 2016

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

Dr. Nancy Hodur is the Center for Social Research Director at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Nancy’s primary research areas include socio-economic impact assessment, community and economic development, and natural resource management. In this article, she gives a brief overview of the recently released update of the North Dakota Statewide Housing Needs Assessment – Population and Housing Forecasts, which is a joint research project of NDSU’s Center of Social Research and the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics.


The Statewide Housing Needs Assessment was developed to provide an overview of current conditions and important trends that affect housing dynamics. These trends include historical shifts in population and demographics, and changes in the state’s economy. In addition, the Statewide Housing Needs Assessment makes forecasts of future housing needs based on population projections and household characteristics such as age, income, and homebuyer type. This article provides a brief discussion of some of the key finding of Component 1 of the Study, Population and Housing Forecast. The complete report can be found at

The dynamic changes in economic and socio-economic conditions that North Dakota has experienced in recent years make forecasting difficult. To address those challenges, population, housing needs, and projected housing inventory were modeled by balancing recent socio-economic conditions with more historical patterns of key factors to model future conditions. While efforts were made to balance recent and historical trends to project future conditions, how well these forecasts will reflect future conditions is perhaps of greater uncertainty than in previous housing needs assessments considering the rapid changes that have occurred in the state. Regardless of challenges associated with forecasting during periods of rapid change, the patterns that emerge from this study are useful in understanding the magnitude of potential future change and can guide planning for future housing needs.

Housing Infographic

North Dakota’s population has changed dramatically during the past decade and a half, with growth rates outpacing all 50 states in each of the past four years. Currently at 756,927 people, North Dakota’s population grew 13 percent from 2010 to 2015. However, population growth has varied regionally. Population in some rural regions declined from 2000 to 2005, but subsequently grew since 2005 to return to population levels similar to those of the early 2000s. 

The characteristics of the state’s population are changing as well. North Dakota was the only state that became younger in 2015. The age structure in the state is being impacted by a strong, diversified economy in the eastern part of the state and the substantial growth experienced by communities in western North Dakota as a result of energy development. The prime working age category, the 45 to 64 age cohort, grew consistently during the 2000s in response to the state’s robust economy. An upturn in the 25 to 44 age cohort, which is the prime child bearing age category, has resulted in an increase in the birth rate. For the first time since the 1980 the number of children under age 14 grew. Future population growth will be driven by two factors, in-migration and an increase in natural births.

Population is projected to continue to grow over the course of the 15-year study period. Population is projected to increase by roughly 134,000 to just over 891,000 by 2029. However, there is substantial regional variability in population growth. Recent trends would suggest continued strong growth in Region I (Williston). However, projections should be monitored in Region I as new data that will better quantify the effects on the oil and gas industry slowdown become available. Population projections for regions of the state that are home to four of the five largest urban centers also indicated strong growth. Population projections in Regions II (Minot), V (Fargo), VII (Bismarck), and VIII (Dickinson) ranged from 22 to 28 percent increase over the course of the study period, which would translate into roughly 1.5 to 1.9 percent average annual growth. Population was projected to remain similar in Region III (Devils Lake) and VI (Jamestown) through 2029. A slight 4 percent decline in population is projected for Region VI, while slight growth of 4 percent is projected for Region III. Modest growth of 8 percent is projected for Region IV (Grand Forks) by 2029. 

An understanding of future population characteristics can improve planning for future housing needs and aid in decision making. Accordingly, the projected increase in population was described using various characteristics, namely age, household income, and type of homebuyer. 

A key change in the composition of the population in the future will be the increase in those age 65 and older. The population of those age 65 and older were projected to increase by 52 percent over the course of the study period.  The last of the baby boomers, those born in 1964, begin turning 65 in 2029, the last year of the study period. The substantial increase in seniors could have multiple implications for addressing future housing needs. Similar to the increase in population of individuals 65 and older, the number of elderly homebuyers, defined as those over age 65, is projected to increase by 54 percent or approximately 37,500 households. Reflective of the increases in population in younger age cohorts, the number of first-time home buyers is projected to increase by 25 percent.

Projected change in the number of households by income is also a useful indicator of potential future housing needs. Double digit growth is projected across all household income levels statewide. Housing needs will be especially acute for lower income households and elderly households. Projected change in the number of households is the greatest for extremely low and very low income households with projected increases of 24 and 25 percent, respectively. Percentage change in the number of low and lower moderate income households is 21 percent each, while change in number of moderate and upper income households is projected to be 19 and 20 percent, respectively.

The state has experienced substantial growth over the course of the past five to eight years, resulting in a reversal of decades’ long trends in population and key socio-economic indicators. Despite a steep decline in oil and gas development activities, thousands of jobs have been added in the state and the state’s economy is considerably larger than it was just a few years ago. Economic growth is especially strong in the state’s largest urban areas, where the economy is more diversified. Population growth has been driven by strong in-migration as a result of employment opportunities in the state and from a substantial increase in the prime child bearing age cohort. Reversing a decades’ long trend of an aging population, the state’s population has become younger in recent years.

While the state overall has experienced growth, a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate due to regional variability. Some communities will continue to be faced with challenges associated with decreasing populations and less robust economic conditions. Other communities have grown substantially in recent years and will likely continue to grow in the future and will be faced with challenges and issues related to managing growth. However, one thing that is consistent across all regions is the need for affordable housing. First-time homebuyers and low income households are projected to increase in nearly every region of the state. The number of elderly households is projected to increase in every region of the state. Projections of the number of younger households is also projected to increase in the future. The state has changed substantially in recent years and will likely continue to grow in the future. An improved understanding of recent trends as well as insight into future population growth and population characteristics can help guide planning efforts and decision making as state and local leaders, developers, and others plan for the future.

Ask a researcher archive

Shweta Arpit Srivastava & Dr. Ann Burnett: “Giving rope and pulling it back”: Parental dilemmas to prevent adolescent substance use
June 2019

Ina Cernusca: 2019 Compass Points: Setting direction for improving the quality of life in North Dakota
May 2019

Joshua Marineau and Onnolee Nordstrom: Learning from Fargo -- An Exploration of the Fargo-Moorhead Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
March 2019

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.