Net Migration in North Dakota

I am teaching demographic methods, population analysis, whatever you want to call it this summer. The class title is not the really important thing to me, it is more a matter of content. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for accurate titles, but neither title is deceptive and most people have no idea what it is anyway regardless of the title.


With that in mind I thought I would include a few maps from my recent presentation at the state demographics conference. I gave the morning keynote address and talked about the basics of some of the demographic changes as well as the implications of those changes. The following series of maps is pretty important confirmation of what happened in North Dakota.

It will be really important to pay attention to the color scale on these maps. The lighter the color the higher the amount of net migration per 1,000 people in the population. Net migration is the amount of inflow less the amount of outflow, so higher numbers imply a higher local population, at least due to the migration aspects.

Clearly we see the impacts of the oil boom here. Enormously positive net migration into western North Dakota, particularly the Bakken region was the norm in 2011 and 2012.

The same pattern continued in 2013. Most of the rest of the state enjoyed minimal positive net migration, if any, while some even saw low-level declines as a result of net out-migration. As seen in the next two maps the positive experiences continued into 20014 and 2015.

Now we come to 2016 and it gets very interesting. The color scale is the same, with lighter colors representing higher levels of net migration, but pay attention to the legend at the bottom. The only counties to really have a change in number are in western North Dakota where they went from strongly positive to strongly negative. The other counties really remain the same, but now are on the high-end of net migration with zero or ten per thousand of population.

There are clearly other demographic factors to consider (such as births data), but this is a dramatic reversal from one year to the next in a demographic factor responsible for a significant amount of overall population change in North Dakota over the past several years.

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