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The Boom State of North Dakota

Population growth comes in surprising places
  • April 16 2012

When one thinks of Americans picking up and moving out of state, it’s easy to think of the sunny beaches of Florida or the desert communities of the Southwest. But North Dakota?

The latest U.S. Census population estimates—which cover the year between the close of the 2010 decennial count and 2011—provide some surprises related to where the U.S. population is growing. For example, several of the top 10 highest growing counties were located outside of the so-called Sun Belt, including one in North Dakota, one in Iowa and one in Washington state. Two others were in the New Orleans area as the city and its environs rebound from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Expanding the list out to the top 50 shows a more traditional pattern, with 38 of the fastest-growing counties over the period located in the South. That said, three of the top 50 are in North Dakota, which had one of the slower rates of growth among all states between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. That gave North Dakota more counties in the top 50 than Florida (which had only one), as many as North Carolina, and more than every state except for Texas, Georgia and Virginia. Furthermore, another two counties are in neighboring South Dakota, the Census Dept. notes.

Much of North Dakota’s growth falls into what the Census Bureau describes as micro areas. The nation's fastest-growing micro area between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, was Williston, N.D., which grew by 8.8 percent. Two other North Dakota micro areas, Dickinson (fourth) and Minot (eighth), also were among the 10 fastest growing. New Mexico contained more micro areas among the 50 fastest growing (six) than any other state: Gallup (11th), Portales (12th), Alamogordo (13th), Clovis (15th), Grants (34th) and Los Alamos (42nd).

None of these North Dakota and New Mexico micro areas was among the 50 fastest growing between 2000 and 2010.


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