Census estimates show Ward County population decline

Population estimates show trends continue

Jill Schramm/MDN Minot has apartments for lease as movement in the market frees up units. Census estimates show some out-migration in Ward County since April 2020.

Ward County’s population declined by 1.2% in new census estimates for the period from April 2020 to July 2021.

North Dakota’s population also declined 0.53% over that period.

Ward County’s estimated July 2021 population is 69,071.

“There’s a couple of things that are driving this,” said Kevin Iverson, director of the State Data Center in the North Dakota Department of Commerce. “Those agriculture-based counties where we have seen a long-term trend of out-migration and kind of a natural decrease, that certainly seems to be the continuing trend. What we saw in the Bakken counties was out-migration. It seems to have happened right after the census.”

The drop in oil price to negative levels in 2020 was a factor, he said.

Much of the out-migration that occurred in the state during that time came in Williams, Ward, McKenzie and Stark counties, he said. Both McKenzie and Williams counties saw about a 6% population decline from April 2020 to July 2021.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of all states and nearly three quarters of all counties experienced more deaths than births in their populations between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.

Iverson said that was not the case for North Dakota overall, where births continued to exceed deaths despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was certainly an increase in the number of deaths – more than we have seen before. It’s up about 1,300-1,400 more deaths than usual,” he said.

Births were down somewhat as well but continued to exceed deaths statewide. However, the Census Bureau estimated 57% of North Dakota counties saw more deaths than births.

Data from the census bureau also note a high migration rate of Native Americans away from reservation counties, creating a population decline in those areas, Iverson said. The indication is that Native Americans are moving to the nearest urban centers for employment that isn’t available on the reservation, he said. Burleigh County currently has the second largest population of Native Americans among North Dakota counties.

“You are seeing a continuing trend of increased educational attainment, reduced poverty, greater labor force participation,” Iverson said.

Since April 2020, Burleigh County’s population has grown almost 0.5% and Morton County almost 1%. Cass County grew 1.1%. Fourteen counties are estimated to have increased their populations.

The estimates were developed from a base that incorporates the 2020 Census, Vintage 2020 estimates and 2020 Demographic Analysis estimates.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today