Minneapolis/St. Paul in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000

November 1, 2003

Executive Summary

The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are witnessing significant demographic change, a trend underscored by Census 2000.

In the early twentieth century, the Twin Cities served as a gateway for German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Irish immigrants. Today, the cities are re-emerging as destinations for immigrants from Mexico, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. As population moves farther and farther out in the Twin Cities metro, immigrants are maintaining the central cities’ growth, contributing to homeownership gains in many neighborhoods, and sustaining the youthful profile of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The economic profile of the Twin Cities is also healthy, underpinned by high levels of education and labor force participation. Yet the overall trends tend to mask troubling differences by race and ethnicity. Black and Hispanic residents of Minneapolis-St. Paul lag their white counterparts in college degree attainment, income, and homeownership. The future of the cities’ middle class, whose size stagnated in the 1990s, may hinge on the progress of these groups in the coming decade.

Along these lines and others, then, Minneapolis-St. Paul in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000 concludes that:

  • Despite downtown growth, population in the Twin Cities metro area is decentralizing. Population in Minneapolis and St. Paul increased modestly in the 1990s, thanks in part to strong growth in the cities’ downtown areas. At the same time, the growth of the Twin Cities’ outer suburbs so far outpaced growth in the remainder of the metro that today fewer than one in four metropolitan residents lives in the central cities. Meanwhile, as people have moved farther out, so have jobs. A majority of all commutes in the region now begin and end in the suburbs, with more workers driving alone.

  • Racial and ethnic diversity is on the rise in Minneapolis-St. Paul, thanks to the cities’ “re-emergence” as an immigrant gateway. While the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul remain majority white, their black, Hispanic, and Asian population shares increased markedly in the 1990s. Driving this trend was a 127-percent increase in Minneapolis-St. Paul’s foreign-born population during the decade—the fifth-largest such rise among the 23 Living Cities. Arrivals from areas as varied as Laos, Mexico, and Somalia have made Minneapolis-St. Paul’s immigrant community one of the most diverse in the U.S. Because more than 60 percent of the cities’ foreign-born population arrived in the country in the last ten years, the Twin Cities face unique challenges in connecting these newcomers to the economic, political, and educational mainstream.

  • Residents of Minneapolis-St. Paul are young and mobile. Baby Boomers aged 35 to 54 are by far the nation’s largest age cohorts, but people in their 20s make up Minneapolis-St. Paul’s largest age groups. As a reflection of their age profile, few of the cities’ households contain married couples; most are people living alone or with other nonrelatives. Significantly, the Minneapolis-St. Paul population is constantly churning. Nearly one-third of all residents lived in a different city five years ago (second only to Denver among the Living Cities), and in many downtown neighborhoods, 60 to 80 percent of households had moved within the past decade. These dynamics indicate Minneapolis-St. Paul’s status as a university center, its emergence as an immigrant gateway, and the metro area’s robust job market for young professionals.

  • The Twin Cities’ workforce is highly educated, although wide attainment gaps between whites and minority groups persist. Among the 23 Living Cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks third in the share of adults who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. These high levels of worker education are reflected in the cities’ large share of adults in the labor force (70 percent) and low unemployment rate (4.7 percent in 2002, lowest among the 23 cities). Still, racial and ethnic minorities lag far behind their white counterparts in educational attainment. Just 15 percent of blacks and 13 percent of Hispanics hold bachelor’s degrees, compared to 42 percent of whites.

  • Despite generally rising incomes, some groups struggled in Minneapolis-St. Paul during the 1990s. To be sure, the standard of living in Minneapolis-St. Paul went up in the 1990s. However, the gains were not shared equally among all groups. Median household income rose 9 percent over the decade (after adjusting for inflation), more than double the rate of increase nationally. As a result, incomes in the Twin Cities metro are among the highest in the Midwest. Yet median household income among Minneapolis-St. Paul blacks trails that among whites by over $17,000, mirroring the educational gap between the groups. Nearly one-third of the cities’ Asian population lives below the poverty line, the highest rate among the 23 Living Cities. In fact, the lack of growth in the cities’ middle class during the 1990s may highlight a shortage of minority families moving up the income ladder.

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul maintains a mix of homeowners and renters. A little over one-half of households in Minneapolis-St. Paul own their own homes—about average for the largest cities in the U.S. Yet group differences emerged here too. The proportion of the cities’ Asian residents who are homeowners more than doubled over the decade, while over the same period black and Hispanic homeownership rates remained only half those of whites. Rents were a similarly mixed story. Prices in Minneapolis-St. Paul are relatively affordable, and in line with those in other Midwestern cities including Indianapolis and Kansas City. Still, affordability remains an issue for the nearly 40 percent of Minneapolis-St. Paul renters who pay more than 30 percent of income on rent.

By presenting the indicators on the following pages, Minneapolis-St. Paul in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000 seeks to give readers a better sense of where Minneapolis-St. Paul and its residents stand in relation to their peers, and how the 1990s shaped the cities, their neighborhoods, and the entire Twin Cities region. Living Cities and the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy hope that this information will prompt a fruitful dialogue among city and community leaders about the direction Minneapolis and St. Paul should take in the coming decade.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Data Book Series 1

Minneapolis-St. Paul Data Book Series 2