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On North Dakota's Population Boom... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Friday, 21 December 2012 10:55

PopBoomSThe local press and many state officials have been all atwitter with the recent news that North Dakota had the largest "percent change" in population in the country.  (Here's the AP story that made the front-page rounds.)  I read the press release from the Census Bureau with a great big "meh."  


Because I like math.  

Let's look at this population "boom" in a mathametical context. First, a snippet from the Cencus Bureau's press release:

North Dakota's total population climbed by 2.17 percent between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012. This is the fastest growth of any state, and nearly three times faster than the nation as a whole, according to Census Bureau state population estimates released today.

The Census Bureau produces population estimates each year, allowing our nationstates and communities to gauge our growth and demographic composition. The population estimates use administrative data to estimate population change between census years, using the decennial census count as a starting point. Estimates are used by local governments to locate services and by the private sector to locate businesses.

Following North Dakota in terms of percent increase over the same period were the District of Columbia (2.15 percent), Texas (1.67 percent), Wyoming (1.60 percent), Utah (1.45 percent) and Nevada (1.43 percent). North Dakota ranked only 37th in growth between the 2000 and 2010 censuses and climbed to sixth between 2010 and 2011. Each of the 10 fastest-growing states were in the South or West with the exception of North Dakota and South Dakota.


Okay, yeah, sure.  North Dakota's population increased.  Fair enough.  

But let's walk through this.  According to the Census Bureau's data (click here), North Dakota's population increased from 672,591 to 699,628 between April of '10 and July of '12.  That's a total increase in population of 27,037.  Let's talk about the population change in Texas (the third-place state) during the same time period.  Texas went from 25,145,561 to 26,059,203, for a total increase in population of 913,642.  The population of Texas increased by about 1.5 times North Dakota's total population during the same period of time.  The population of Texas increased by North Dakota's population 16-month increase about once a month.  

Here's another way of looking at it: If you have a big island and only one person lives on it, and one more person shows up on the island, you might call that a "population explosion" because the population increased by 100%. (WOW!!!)  But is it really a population explosion? No. The percentage seems really big and impressive, but there's just one more person there. There are only two people there.

That's essentially what the "big news" is, apparently.  The state with almost the smallest population in the country got a few more people.  Are we still in fourth-to-last place ahead of only Wyoming, Vermont and D.C.?  Yep.

Sorry, folks, but this really wasn't a front-page, huge-bold-font news story. Well, unless you're North Dakota's media and don't "get" math, of course.

Comments (5)add comment

Doing my part said:

In the last four years, we've had a 100% growth in population, and that's just in our household!!!!!
December 21, 2012
Votes: +0

Jason said:

Mr. Grinch a.k.a. Chet

Big deal. It's a percentage thing. And it was on the nightly news the other night as well. And on MSN, and Foxnews, and CNN.

Let North Dakota feel good about something instead of saying "GRRR you little Who's...I want to ruin news that might come off as positive..."
December 21, 2012
Votes: +0

big jake said:

It's the oil stupid. Nothing else. At some point, this influx will end and a workforce in the patch will emerge.

Oil companies know that to hire enough they have to pay enough. At some point, they will sort this out, get rid of the lower performers and wage will decline or stabilize.

What is so conveniently ignored is that we are still a low wage state. Bismarck wages are lagging and will continue too. Rental costs are going up and this is completely due to greed. At some point, the line will intersect and rent will go down. This is not the kind of capitalism envisioned at the beginning although it has happend many times in our history.
December 21, 2012
Votes: +3

nimrodent said:

Applying the per capita rate of murders of children, the Newtown ND shootings are equivalent to 15 children murdered in the State of Connecticutt. Aren't statistics neat? Any legislative hearings scheduled Carlson?
December 24, 2012
Votes: +0

Mark T said:

Come on. The story's factually correct, right? I don't get your assertion that the media doesn't "get math" in this case. The story speaks for itself and its description re percentage of growth was clear, if not surprising. Meh? Somewhat. Math problem? Not at all.
Front page, bold print? I'll concede that one.
There are legitimate issues to take the media to task on. I don't believe this is one of them.
December 26, 2012
Votes: +0

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