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Is your county getting smaller? Half of Minnesota counties see population decline

Census stats show that rural counties continue to struggle.

Minnesota is still becoming increasingly urban as the latest population changes shows continued decline in rural counties.

Census Bureau figures highlights the fastest growing and declining counties in the state both for the year up to July 2017, as well as the 7 years between 2010-2017.

More than half of Minnesota's counties posted population drop in those seven years, the figures show, with overall growth in the state fueled by Twin Cities metro counties.

Twin Cities now accounts for 3.6 million of Minnesota's 5.6 million population, after growing by more than 250,000 since the 2010 Census.

Hennepin County alone saw its population increase by almost 100,000.

The next official Census isn't until 2020, but the Pioneer Press explains the interim figures are compiled using birth and death records, the 2010 Census counts, geography changes, IRS tax records and Medicare enrollment.

The challenges facing rural counties

In the rural counties, the challenge is a mixture of migration and aging.

The worst hit tend to be along Minnesota's northern and western borders.

The counties that biggest population decline – Lac Qui Parle in southwestern Minnesota and Lake of the Woods in the extreme north – show deaths outnumbering births and more movement outside of the counties than in.

Since 2010, Lac Qui Parle has recorded 438 births to 637 deaths, and gained 25 international migrants but lost 433 residents moving out of the county. Its population has fallen by 7.91 percent in the past seven years to total 6,685.

In Minnesota's largest growing county, Scott – which covers parts of the southwest Twin Cities – an explosion of births coupled with steady inward migration numbers helped the population grow by almost 16,000 since 2010 – a rise of more than 12 percent.

If you want an example of how an otherwise rural county can benefit from an urban hub, take a look at Beltrami County, which covers a huge swath of northern Minnesota including Red Lake, but posted a 4.66 percent population increase that pretty much all come from Bemidji.

The Top 5 rising and declining counties

Population changes since 2010 Census to July 2017.

Biggest risers

1. Scott County (SW Metro) – 129,910 to 146,827 (+12.24%)

2. Carver County (SW Metro) – 91,086 to 102,119 (+12.17%)

3. Hennepin County (Minneapolis) – 1,152,381 to 1,252,084 (+8.64%)

4. Clay County (Moorhead) – 58,999 to 63,569 (+7.75%)

5. Ramsey County (St. Paul) – 508,639 to 547,974.

The biggest fallers

1. Lac Qui Parle County (SW MN) – 7,259 to 6,685 (-7.9%)

2. Lake of the Woods County (N MN) – 4,045 to 3,744 (-7.44%)

3. Renville County (S. Central MN) – 15,730 to 14,645 (-6.9%)

4. Traverse County (W. MN) – 3,534 to 3,319 (-6.72%)

5. Kittson County (NW MN) – 4,552 to 4,250 (-6.63%).

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