Population Changes in ND, First Iteration

A standard question of late on the Jarrod Thomas Show focuses on the possible changing pecking order for cities in North Dakota. Essentially JT and I wonder aloud about the implications for Grand Forks from changes in population due to the change in economic structure in North Dakota. So this is a first stab at giving an answer to the possible change in the pecking order.

**Let me be clear: this is not the preferred way to go about this. I am working on a more refined way but wanted to give a basic answer now. **

So what did I do? I grabbed data from the Census Bureau, specifically the July 1 estimate for 357 cities in North Dakota. The estimates were for 2010-2013 (2013 being the latest available). From these I calculated the annual population growth rate over the period 2010-13 for each city. I then applied these growth rates to each city moving forward. The top ten cities in order for 2015 by this method are:

1. Fargo

2. Bismarck

3. Grand Forks

4. Minot

5. West Fargo

6. Williston

7. Dickinson

8. Mandan

9. Jamestown

10. Wahpeton

No real surprises there. So let’s look at the next five years and move forward to 2020. The top ten cities in 2020 are:

1. Fargo

2. Bismarck

3. Minot

4. Grand Forks

5. Williston

6. West Fargo

7. Dickinson

8. Mandan

9. Jamestown

10. Watford City

There are some changes to the list here. Grand Forks falls to fourth in the state while Minot jumps into the top three. Williston jumps into the top five as well and Watford City makes an appearance in the top ten. Clearly there is an increase in the population in the west under these assumptions. The population of Grand Forks is growing over this time, other cities are simply growing faster. Let’s jump ahead another five years to 2025:

1. Fargo

2. Bismarck

3. Williston

4. Minot

5. Grand Forks

6. West Fargo

7. Watford City

8. Dickinson

9. Mandan

10. Jamestown

Whole lot of shakeup here. Williston vaults into the top three and Watford City is up to number seven, jumping ahead of Dickinson. Let’s make one more jump to 2030. I actually ran numbers out to 2050 or so, but we will stop here for now, largely because I think the post is getting too long and pointing out that I need to learn TablePress before another of these types of posts.

1. Fargo

2. Williston

3. Watford City

4. Bismarck

5. Minot

6. Grand Forks

7. West Fargo

8. Dickinson

9. Mandan

10. Jamestown

This represents a major change and shakeup in the pecking order as far as cities and regions within the state go. So first, why is this not the preferred way to analyze the issue.

We are assuming growth rates stay constant over an amazingly extended period of time, which is highly unlikely. Many factors influence population growth and few of them, if any, remain constant for such a long period of time. It is likely that there would be reduced rates of growth in the West, possibly increases in the East, or really any number of variations we might want to impose. The purpose of this exercise was not to generate a great population forecast, that will come later.

The reason this started was JT’s question about the outlook for Grand Forks. If things persist the way they are right now, Grand Forks starts to fall behind. Yes there is still growth in population, but others grow faster and surpass Grand Forks. This is the type of thing Grand Forks leaders need to consider when looking at scenarios about the future of Grand Forks and any policies they want to implement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *