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How different groups are faring in Minnesota’s economy

workshop worker
Photo by Eduardo Cabrera on Unsplash
The unemployment rates for most Minnesotans of color are higher than for white Minnesotans.

On-the-whole, Minnesotans are doing better than they were a few years ago. We learned that much from a Census release in September 2018 that showed that incomes are rising.

But we also learned then that there are stark disparities when you look at the economic status of black, white, Asian, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American Minnesotans.

A newer report shows there are lots of disparities within those broad racial and ethnic groups, too.

Here are five things we learned from newer data on the economic status of Minnesotans. Released by the Minnesota State Demographic Center in January, this report looks at stats for 17 cultural groups, helping us better understand the nuances of the state’s population, and disparities between different groups.


There are a lot of cultural groups that make up the 19.7 percent of Minnesotans who are people of color.

African-American Minnesotans and Mexican Minnesotans make up the largest cultural groups among Minnesotans of color, followed by Hmong and Somali Minnesotans. (Note that because of population size, there can be significant margins of error in the data, and not all cultural groups are included in the data because some weren’t large enough to make estimates about).

Share of Minnesota population
Note: 80.3 percent of Minnesota's population is white and non-Hispanic.
Source: American Community Survey, compiled by the Minnesota State Demographic Center

Minnesotans of color tend to be much younger than white Minnesotans

That’s especially the case for Somali, Hmong and Mexican Minnesotans, nearly half of whom are under age 21. While the median Minnesotan is 37 years old, and the median white Minnesotan is 41, the median Somali and Hmong Minnesota is 22, and the median Mexican Minnesotan is 23.That means Minnesota’s future workforce is going to be significantly more diverse than its current workforce.

Median age
Source: American Community Survey, compiled by the Minnesota State Demographic Center

The share of Minnesotans with a bachelor’s degree or higher varies a lot by cultural group

Asian Minnesotans have some of the highest rates of education in the state — and some of the lowest: 84 percent of Asian Indian Minnesotans adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher; and Chinese, Korean and Filipino Minnesotans also have high rates of educational attainment. But just 11 percent of Lao Minnesotan have a bachelor’s degree or higher.


That means that unless Minnesota can address some of the inequities in who goes to college, it’ll be tough for the state to make up for that looming workforce shortage, said Megan Dayton, senior demographer at the Minnesota State Demographic Center.

Share of adults (age 25-64) with a bachelor's degree or higher
Source: American Community Survey, compiled by the Minnesota State Demographic Center

Incomes vary a lot, too

Among Asian Minnesotans, for example, Asian Indian Minnesotans have a median household income of about $105,000, the highest of any group in the state, while Hmong Minnesotans’ median household income is around $61,000 and Korean Minnesotans’ is around $53,000.

Median household income
Because of small sample sizes, incomes for Dakota, Filipino, Lao, Ethiopian, Liberian and Puerto Rican Minnesotans are not shown.
Source: American Community Survey, compiled by the Minnesota State Demographic Center

It’s not just foreign-born Minnesotans who are having a tough time economically

The unemployment rates for most Minnesotans of color are higher than for white Minnesotans. What’s more, the unemployment rates for Ojibwe and African-American Minnesotans are higher than they are for Somali and Hmong Minnesotans, and other groups that include many new Americans. For other indicators, the patterns are much the same.“We definitely have some long-festering barriers for some particular communities of color,” Dayton said. “And these folks are not new immigrants.”

Unemployment
Note: Data for Dakota Minnesotans were not available.
Source: American Community Survey, compiled by the Minnesota State Demographic Center

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Fred Lin on 04/16/2019 - 12:51 pm.

    It is unfortunate that some of the data in the report is so old. Unemployment rates reported are an average of 2012-2016. Averages of such a dynamic rate are of limited value, and dramatic changes have occurred in the last 2.5 years that are worth highlighting. DEED reports unemployment rates on a monthly basis here: https://mn.gov/deed/data/current-econ-highlights/alternative-unemployment.jsp. The statewide black unemployment rate in February 2019 was 6.9%.

  2. Submitted by Brian Scholin on 04/16/2019 - 02:16 pm.

    I don’t remember ever seeing “Russian” as a PoC category. And the Russians I have met have not been easily distinguishable from others of us who lack color, as long as they don’t speak. How is this defined?

    I have never been comfortable with the concept of race, and like PoC as a term far better, since I think it connotes a lot more than skin tone. But I am having a hard time connecting it with what I have observed/experienced with Russian people.

  3. Submitted by John Adams on 04/16/2019 - 02:53 pm.

    When stories like this one appear it would be helpful to explain the theoretical reasons and political implications of classifying people by “race” and/or ethnic origin.

    It’s a common practice by journalists, elected officials, advocates and others but often implies that what is true about an average for a group is also characteristic of individuals within the specified group.

    I recall that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to teach us to avoid such limited thinking.

  4. Submitted by richard owens on 04/17/2019 - 10:39 am.

    Why do we classify by ‘race’ ‘ethnicity’ or national origin? It is a good question. This NIH article (summarized below) attempts to answer “why” the federal government wants to collect the data.

    [quote]
    ABSTRACT:
    Emerging methods in the measurement of race and ethnicity have important implications for the field of public health. Traditionally, information on race and/or ethnicity has been integral to our understanding of the health issues affecting the U.S. population. We review some of the complexities created by new classification approaches made possible by the inclusion of multiple-race assessment in the U.S. Census and large health surveys. We discuss the importance of these classification decisions in understanding racial/ethnic health and health care access disparities. The trend toward increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the United States will put further pressure on the public health industry to develop consistent and useful approaches to racial/ethnic classifications.
    [end quote]

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3681827/

    If we wish to understand ourselves as a country of immigrants, we would not argue for less information, would we?

    Justice Roberts declared in his opinion on “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

    Only a majority race would think that helps arbitrate social integration. It sounds like a verbal escape from the issue.

  5. Submitted by joe smith on 04/17/2019 - 01:44 pm.

    There are two groups of workers, one that are willing to work hard, learn new things and adapt then there is the group not willing to work hard, learn new things and adapt. Guess which one does better.

    • Submitted by richard owens on 04/17/2019 - 07:09 pm.

      Two groups in each race? or two groups in all humanity?

      Asking for a friend/

      • Submitted by joe smith on 04/18/2019 - 10:49 am.

        Two groups period. Race makes no difference. There are great workers in every race, religion and poor workers in every race, religion. It is all up to the individual.

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