The Census Bureau released their yearly population estimates today. As noted by Wendell Cox, the estimates showed signs of the South's continued leadership in population expansion. While the overall numbers of people involved are much smaller, the Dakotas, in particular North Dakota, also showed signs of growth worthy of note. According to the Census Bureau, North Dakota now has an estimated population of around 683,000, up over 11,000 in just one year. This made it the 6th fastest growing state in the nation over the past year- a notable achievement in its own right for a state more accustomed to dealing the challenge of outmigration.
However, the most interesting thing about the new estimate is that it represents a new record population for the state. There have never been more North Dakotans then there are today. The previous high count was about 680,000 way back in 1930. With the onset of the depression, the state entered a long period largely marked by periods of population decline and stagnation.
As a lifelong North Dakotan, I've occasionally found myself having difficulty coming to grips with our state's recent prosperity. North Dakotans can be a self effacing lot, and it sometimes seems that there’s a still a healthy dose of skepticism among my fellow citizens regarding our current good fortune. We’re not used to being on top like this, seeing our often ignored home highlighted in the press for its economic strength and tagged as "the state the recession forgot." For decades, we've been trying to find ways to deal with what seemed an inexorable cycle of rural decline and depopulation. While the new estimate is just a number, it does serve to break a bit of a psychological barrier for the state. We’re not just making up lost ground anymore- we’re now in uncharted territory and building beyond previous limits. It's a refreshing change.
Historians refer to the 1880s and period from 1900-1915 as the “Great Dakota Booms”. Growth was unchecked in what became North and South Dakota, and the population soared as immigrants poured into the region in search of economic opportunity. While oil has taken the lead role in place of land in this performance, it appears that our corner of the nation is in another "Great Dakota Boom" for many of the same reasons. Hopefully it will prove lasting. I, and my fellow North Dakotans will just have to learn to deal with prosperity. Call it “How North Dakota (and Matthew) Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Boom”.
All in all, it's a good time to be a Nodak.