North Dakota population drops in latest census estimate

North Dakota's population abruptly dropped during 2021, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates, reversing a decade of robust population growth from 2010 to 2020.

North Dakota Capitol sign in Bismarck
North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck.
Darren Gibbons / The Forum

FARGO — North Dakota's population dropped by more than 4,000 in the year that ended July 1, 2021, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates.

North Dakota's population, estimated at 779,094 in 2020, fell to 774,498, a decline of 4,014 or -0.5% as of July 1, making its population loss the 8th largest in percentage terms, according to the Census Bureau's rankings.

By comparison, South Dakota was ranked the 9th highest in percent population growth, gaining 0.9%, with an estimated population of 895,376. Minnesota gained 225 people in the latest estimate, with a population of 5,707,390.

North Dakota was among 19 states and the District of Columbia that lost population, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates, in a year that saw the nation's slowest ever population growth.

"We seem to be in good company," said Kevin Iverson, director of the North Dakota State Data Center, which tracks population figures and demographic trends.


Population trends for 2021 have been difficult to predict because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the volatility of oil prices, which plunged in early 2020 but since have rebounded to a significant degree.

"I was expecting things to pretty much stay the same," Iverson said. "It's been hard to read the tea leaves."

Because of the pandemic, the Census Bureau has been delayed in releasing information. The 2020 Census was several months late.

"They haven't released a lot of demographic details," Iverson said.

The 2021 population estimates mark an abrupt reversal for North Dakota, which saw population growth from 2010 to 2020 of 15.8%, ranking it in the top five states in percentage gains. North Dakota's population grew by 106,503 during that decade.

Previously, North Dakota gained 257,910 residents between 1900 and 1910, rapid growth driven by a second wave of homesteading.

Iverson suspects North Dakota did better after July 1, which isn't reflected in the Census Bureau's estimates. In 2011, North Dakota's population dipped but recovered, and that could happen again in 2022, he said.

"It's been such a strange year," Iverson said.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address:
Phone: 701-367-5294
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