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Sloppy reporting on Minneapolis, St. Paul population growth

As anyone who follows me knows, I love Minneapolis and central cities in general. I still curse like a sailor every time I get lost driving the kids to the pediatrician near Eden Prairie Center. (Wife’s deal; ask her.)

That said, this week’s reports on the Met Council’s 2010-11 population growth estimates — highlighting Minneapolis and St. Paul population gains — is somewhat unfair to the ‘burbs and, in a way, to the cities, too.

Though a one-year population growth estimate is a pretty thin reed to hang a front-page story on, Minneapolis acquiring 5,000 people is worth a talker. However, reporting that this “revers[es] a decades-long trend of population losses to the suburbs,” as the Strib’s David Peterson did, is just plain wrong.

As recently as one decade ago (the 2000 census), Minneapolis grew by 14,000 people; St. Paul by nearly 15,000 people. Though both places were essentially flat in the 2000s (Minneapolis lost 40 people; St. Paul 1,900), both had more people than in 1980 or 1990. Since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the trend is growth.

It may be more accurate to say 2011 data show the pause of the 2000s is over. At the very least, we don’t need to dress the core in sackcloth and ashes to celebrate more recent gains.

Meanwhile, suburban successes were underplayed. MPR’s Sasha Aslanian led with, “Core cities were the winners,” adding, “no single suburb beat out the core cities.” The latter is only true if you look at absolute numbers (which unfortunately is all the Met Council did, city-by-city). If you use percentages — a better method for comparing a 380,000-person city to a 60,000-person ‘burb — the picture changes.

Of the eight suburbs on the Met Council’s Top 10 list, five grew faster than Minneapolis and all grew faster than St. Paul. The core cities grew more slowly (0.98 percent) than the top 15 cities overall (1.04 percent), though faster than the metro area (0.83 percent).

If you equate population growth with “winning,” it’s hard not to call Blaine (up 1.96 percent), Woodbury (up 1.87 percent), Shakopee (1.53 percent), Apple Valley (1.44 percent) and Maple Grove (up 1.39 percent) “winners” along with Minneapolis (up 1.37 percent) and St. Paul (up 0.45 percent).

In the media’s rush to emphasize city-versus-suburb conflict, the headline that got missed is this: The Twin Cities may be experiencing the closest thing to balanced growth it ever has.

The developing suburbs (Woodbury, Blaine, Maple Grove, etc.) got 39 percent of the metro growth, but developed ‘burbs (Bloomington, Apple Valley, Brooklyn Park) got 29 percent and the central cities 28 percent.

As much as I wish Eden Prairie would depopulate on days when I can’t figure out the difference between Prairie Center Drive and Flying Cloud Drive, it may better if every area wins (even if individual cities or a handful of exurbs lose). To me, fleshing out that story is more worthy of the front page.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/17/2012 - 01:31 pm.

    Good points

    This is the first time in my many decades that I’ve been an official resident of a “central” or “big” city, so it’s kind of encouraging to see that Minneapolis is growing, whether by absolute numbers or percentages. Even if one or the other is a small number, this area beats one of my former homes – metro St. Louis – all to heck. The core city of St. Louis lost, I think, 29,000 or so in the 2010 census compared to a decade earlier, so if Minneapolis lost only a relative handful, that’s progress.

    Even more progress is David’s point near the end. Balanced growth is typically the pie-in-the-sky wish for urban planners, and I’m inclined to agree with David that the relatively balanced growth between/among “developing” suburbs, the inner ring and the central city is a good thing.

  2. Submitted by Kenneth Adams on 07/18/2012 - 12:01 am.

    “Of the eight suburbs on the Met Council’s Top 10 list, five grew faster than Minneapolis and all grew faster than St. Paul. The core cities grew more slowly (0.98 percent) than the top 15 cities overall (1.04 percent)…” These two numbers don’t differ; both are 1.0%.

  3. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/18/2012 - 02:55 pm.

    Sloppy reporting?

    *gasp!* That has taken me completely by surprise! /sarcasm off

    Seriously, I don’t think I can name a news outlet of any sort that hasn’t been guilty of sloppy reporting at least once. Alas, in most cases, it’s the norm.

    • Submitted by David Hanners on 07/19/2012 - 10:47 am.

      Ms. Kahler, on behalf of myself and the other hard-working professionals that I am honored to work with at the Pioneer Press, I have to say that your blanket and cheap-shot claim that our work is sloppy is, well, sloppy.

      I can assure you that in our shop, it isn’t “the norm.”

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/19/2012 - 11:07 am.

        Good to hear that

        If you wish my “blanket and cheap-shot claim” to cover you, by all means, take it as the insult it is meant to be. However, it isn’t a sloppy accusation. Presuming that “most” means specifically you and/or the Pioneer Press is the kind of presumption that has no place in good news reporting. If, on the other hand, you are confident that you and Pioneer Press are above my “blanket and cheap-shot claim,” be proud of that, continue the good work, and quit being so defensive or people will begin to wonder if you dost protest to much. Regardless, there is definitely room for improvement at all news outlets–for some it’s minor, for many, it’s a complete change in the way they do business.

        • Submitted by David Hanners on 07/19/2012 - 02:44 pm.

          I’d write a reply but have read yours twice and can’t really decipher it, and life is short so I’m not going to try and read it a third time.

          • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/19/2012 - 03:46 pm.


            I didn’t specifically mean to insult you or Pioneer Press. But if you insist on forcing the shoe to fit, feel free. Quite frankly, if I was someone else at the Pioneer Press, I would decline to let you speak for me.

            Writing a reply saying that you’re not writing a reply, by the way, is kind of funny.

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