Census: North Dakota grows younger

GRAND FORKS -- Grand Forks County didn't get any younger in 2015, bucking a trend followed by a majority of its counterparts across North Dakota, but it seems to have maintained its youthful vigor.

GRAND FORKS -- Grand Forks County didn’t get any younger in 2015, bucking a trend followed by a majority of its counterparts across North Dakota, but it seems to have maintained its youthful vigor.

Forty counties in the state saw their median ages decrease between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015, according to population estimate data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The median age in Grand Forks County remained at 29.1 during that year, making it one of four counties to keep its figure steady.

That doesn’t mean the county isn’t a picture of youth in the state.  

“Grand Forks County is the second youngest county and only one of two less than 30 years of age,” said Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office.


Sioux County comes in as youngest with a median age of 26.9. On the other end of the spectrum is Sheridan County, notching a median age of 53.1.

With 40 counties swinging younger, North Dakota became the only state to decrease its overall median age, which fell slightly from 34.9 years old to 34.6, according to a news release from the state Department of Commerce.

Younger residents The influx of young people age 20 to 24 likely plays a role in the state’s lowered median age.

That age group in particular has grown significantly since 2010, rising about 26 percent to 74,446 last year.

The growth, however, is predicted by the North Dakota Census Office to slow and eventually reverse. In a projection the office released earlier this year, that 2015 total is expected to drop back down to about 68,000 over the next four years.

Population estimates show that loss could already be occurring in Grand Forks County, which lost 154 people from that age group over the 2014-15 timespan, according to a Herald analysis of census population estimate data.

Still, a growth spurt of people in the 20 to 24 age group has been recorded over the past several years in the county, and with their arrival locally and statewide comes another trend, according to a report released earlier this year by the North Dakota Census Office.

“In-migration of younger individuals appears to have a corresponding impact on out-migration of older residents,” the report said. “In the recent past, for those counties that have experienced the highest overall growth, there appears to be a higher out-migration of older residents from these areas. Older residents appear to be migrating into the Bismarck and Fargo regions or out of state.”


North Dakota’s population did have the highest concentration of 20 to 24 years on the country in 2015, with 9.6 percent of residents falling into that age group, according to the census.

Local growth That age group is where Grand Forks County recorded much of its population growth from 2010 to 2015.

Overall, the county saw an increase of nearly 1,300 people in the 20 to 24 year old category during that time period -- the highest gain seen by any one age group in that time.

The presence of UND in Grand Forks likely had a hand in the increase. The school has reported growing enrollment numbers over the past decade.

Jobs also are plentiful in the state and region, with the North Dakota Department of Commerce noting more than 14,500 open jobs in the state continue to attract and retain youth.

North Dakota even recently topped a list proclaiming it as the best state for millennials.

Rental affordability, internet access, employment and nightlife were all factors in’s decision to grant North Dakota the title. The website, which provides banking information for consumers, noted the unemployment rate for the 20 to 24 age group was less than half the national average at 4.6 percent.

Counting gains and losses across all age groups, Grand Forks County added about 650 people in that period.


As noted by the North Dakota Census Office report, other older age groups did see population losses in the county.

The biggest decrease comes in the three groups making up the 40 to 54 year old demographic. Nearly 1,700 people fell from this group, likely for a number of reasons, including aging out of it or leaving the county as suggested by the report.

Youngest counties in North Dakota by median age

  1. Sioux County - 26.9

  2. Grand Forks County - 29.1

  3. Benson County - 30.3

  4. Rolette County - 30.5

  5. McKenzie County - 30.6

Grand Forks County age groups with highest gains from 2010 to 2015 20-24 year olds: 1,297 30-34 year olds: 797
65-69 year olds: 735

Grand Forks County age groups with highest losses from 2010 to 2015

  1. 45-49 year olds: -855

  2. 50-54 year olds: -492

  3. 40-44 year olds: -323

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2010-15 population estimates

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