Age By County in North Dakota

The demographic transitions within North Dakota due to the Bakken oil boom are simply fascinating. These are part of my presentations at the North Dakota Demographics Conference. Some of this may be updated in the next few days because the Census Bureau released new data today that I am still working through even as I write this. Multitasking with writing blog posts and computer code is one of my skills. Ask JT about it on his radio show sometime.

I spend much of my day parsing and visualizing the data to understand exactly what happened and how that likely impacts the future movements of the state in both economic and population terms. One change I discuss often is the age profile and structure in the state. The state became much younger, and in a way that you do not often see without a significant event impacting the older population like a plague. 

Here are two population pyramids, one for 2010 and one for 2016. It goes by single year of age and the top category is 85+ which is why it looks so weird at the top. 

So what do we notice different about the two. The most striking difference is that the populations around the age of 25 are significantly higher for the 2016 pyramid, for both males and females though the male increase is larger. The number of ages with more people is pretty significant as well. What is important to note is that, for the most part these people were not already here. That expansion of the pyramid, bulging if you will, means these individuals came in from outside the population at earlier ages. That is, it is a sign of a positive net migration for the state, for those years at least. 

I also looked at the distribution by county for the same years to see how the county level median age changed over these same years. One thing to note at the outset is that in 2010 the Bakken area is in the middle age range somewhere in the vicinity of 40 years for median age. Recall median implies 50% higher and 50% lower. The really young areas were Sioux County, Cass County, and Grand Forks County though there are some different reasons for those positions. 

By 2016 the Bakken area is also on the young end with counties in that are around 30 years for median age. To drop the median age by 10 years in about six years time is astounding. See my comment above about plague. Seriously. Did Williams County decide to enact some kind of Logan’s Run or Children of the Corn model for dealing with an aging population? It is also noteworthy that some areas did get older at the same time. The Bakken boom did exert differential impacts on counties across the state so that even while the state as a whole benefitted, and in many ways significantly, the adjustments did create issues in other parts of the state. 

The demographic changes and possible transitions in North Dakota are really amazing and clearly correlate geographically with changes in industry performance in the state. How these transitions manifested themselves in the state is one thing, but the county level changes and adjustments are truly fascinating and will be a topic of study for a long time.  


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