Census snapshot: Poverty rising, diversity decreasing in Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a young city filled with well-educated residents that like to take public transportation. It’s also struggling with rising poverty while at the same time losing diversity to the suburbs. 

These are a few of the findings from recently released results by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, complied from 2005–2009. 

Because the data was collected on two different sides of a recession, it has its limitations. But researchers say it’s the best information available to get a good look at a community’s characteristics.

The data is compiled year-by-year and is different than the decennial census, which is releasing results slowly this winter. 

“It used to be that demographers and people wanting to know what’s going on would have to wait for 10 years for the new decennial census to come,” said Libby Starling, research manager for the Met Council. “Now, with the American Community Survey, the data will be updated every year so the idea of having nine-year old data is completely in the past.”

Minneapolis losing diversity

One interesting trend to come from the new data is the migration of Minneapolis’s minority population into first-ring suburbs. So many minorities left over the past 10 years that Minneapolis went from being the most diverse city in the state in 2000 to fourth in 2010. 

Passing Minneapolis were St. Paul, Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park. In the past 10 years Minneapolis has gone from 65 percent white to 70 percent white. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Park went from 71 percent white in 2000 to 58 percent today. Brooklyn Center went from 71 percent to 55 percent.

In fact, Minneapolis is now on par with Richfield, which is 71 percent white, after being 81 percent white in 2000. 

Starling said the pattern is for minorities on the north side of the city to move to Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center and for those on the south side to move to Richfield and Bloomington. 

“People seem to have a mindset of what quadrant of town they live in and they may move farther out from the center, but their psychological idea of which quadrant is theirs remains constant,” she said. 

Starling said factors such as finding an economical place to live, getting into the ideal school district and moving closer to their place of work has contributed to the migration. 

Poverty on the rise

It’s not a trend only in Minneapolis, but the city is suffering from rising poverty rates. A decade ago, 17 percent of the city’s population was poor, compared to 22 percent today. Even more alarming, child poverty went from 25 percent to 32 percent. Only about 10 percent of Minnesota’s entire population is poor. 

“Overall, even before the recession the incomes were sort of flat over the course of the decade,” Starling said. “The recession is certainly beginning to pull incomes down, and as a result, poverty is on the rise and that is not unique to Minneapolis by any means. It’s common across the country.”

Young and educated

Minneapolis remains a young and well-educated city. 

While the average Minnesotan is 37 years old, the average Minneapolis resident is 32. 

Though the 88 percent of Minnesota residents who hold a high school degree lags behind the state average of 91 percent, Minneapolis has more residents with college degrees.

Of those 25 and older, 43 percent of city residents have a bachelor’s degree compared 31 percent of all Minnesotans. In 2000, 37 percent of city residents had a bachelor’s degree.

On top of that, 16 percent of residents hold an advanced degree, compared to 10 percent statewide. 

More emphasis on public transportation 

Minneapolis commuters spend less time in their cars than those in the rest of the metro area. The average commute to work for city residents is 22 minutes, compared to 25 minutes for the rest of the metro.

But while 78 percent of state residents travel to work in their own vehicle, only 62 percent of Minneapolis residents do the same. Instead, 14 percent of city residents use public transportation, compared to 3.3 percent of Minnesotans. Seven percent of city residents walk to work. There is no bicycle data available, but Minneapolis is generally rated one of the best cities for bicycles in the nation. 

Larger Hispanic population

While Minneapolis may be losing diversity in some areas, the Latino population in the city continues to grow. The city is now 10 percent Hispanic or Latino, up from 7.6 percent in 2000. Eight percent of residents speak Spanish at home, compared to 3.5 percent of Minnesotans. 

Some of the growth in the Latino population has occurred in Southwest, in particular the Lyndale neighborhood. Of the three census tracts in and around Lyndale, the Latino populations are 20 to 32 percent of the general population.

The Lyndale Neighborhood Association recently created a “Latinas de Lyndale en Liderazgo” program. It’s a group of women from the area that meets regularly to learn and discuss ways to make themselves leaders in the community who are engaged in civics.

“Part of it is the growing trend, and part of it is that as a community we’re really focused on involving everybody in the neighborhood,” said LNA Executive Director Mark Hinds.

by the numbers: Minneapolis demographics 


Percentage of residents in Minneapolis who are white, up from 65 percent in 2000


Average age of Minneapolis residents


Percentage of Minneapolis residents who are foreign born


Percentage of residents who are Latino or Hispanic, up from 7.6 percent in 2000.


Percentage of residents who commute to work using public transportation, compared to 3 percent of state residents. 


Percentage of children in Minneapolis who are under the poverty level



Ancestry of Minneapolis residents

24 percent German

12 percent Irish

11 percent Norwegian

8 percent Swedish

7 percent English

6 percent Sub-Saharan African

4 percent French

4 percent Polish

2 percent Italian

Source: U.S. Census American Community Survey