Is Minneapolis low on kids?

Minneapolis has been hemorrhaging its youth population over the decades. So... should we be worried?

Minneapolis has been hemorrhaging its youth population over the decades. So... should we be worried? Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

A new article from MinnPost examining census data came to an alarming (to some) conclusion: There aren't a whole lot of kids in Minneapolis.

Our city’s share of households with members under 18 is 23 percent. As MinnPost pointed out, that’s lower than St. Paul (32 percent). Also, New York and Los Angeles (both at 30 percent), and Chicago (27 percent).

These days, people tend to raise their families in our surrounding suburbs, not the urban core. Minneapolis’ share of children drops way off around age 4 or 5—school age—and you’ll find much higher percentages of households with young people in, say, Woodbury (43 percent), Shakopee (44 percent), and Lakeville (46 percent).

Childlessness is a phenomenon major American cities increasingly share. Census data shows that between 2000 and 2017, among 25- to 49-year-olds, the chance of choosing city living rose about 7 percent for people without kids and fell over 5 percent for people with a child over 6.

There are plenty of urban areas we’re beating in terms of childrearing. Seattle, for example, only has people under 18 in 20 percent of its households. Cities across the country have been losing child-rearing families since the ’50s and ’60s, with the rise of the suburb and subsequent white flight. The relative cost of living in cities is a factor, as is the scarcity of affordable housing.

But yet another is that we’re really not having as many kids anymore. The United States has seen an overall decline in fertility since 2007 and the Great Recession. Minnesota’s fertility rate in 2006 was about 2.16 kids per woman over the course of her lifetime. In 2016, it fell to 1.92, below the replacement rate.

As far as Minneapolis goes, there’s a racial component, too. Minneapolis’ population is 60 percent white—whiter than St. Paul (52 percent) or New York City (32 percent), as MinnPost pointed out. And white women have the lowest fertility rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

So, Minneapolis is low on kids. The logical question is, so what? It’s not like the city is shrinking; our population shot up 11 percent between 2010 and 2018. But Alexandra Lange, author of The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids, told MinnPost there might be cause to worry.

“We don’t often talk about age diversity, but in cities where everyone’s the same age and they move through quickly, it can become a monoculture,” she said. “It often means people aren’t as invested politically or economically in a city so they may ignore things or use their income to get out of things.”

Still, Minnesota senior demographer Megan Dayton isn’t sounding any alarms.

“I don’t know if ‘worry’ is the right word,” she says. There’s certainly no shortage of children statewide—even if Minnesota’s fertility rate is dropping, too, at a lesser degree.

If anything, she says, it’s kind of interesting. These population patterns tend to wax and wane with the passing of large generations, like the Boomers. Dayton says we’re expecting this dip in fertility to continue up through 2035, but after that, it may just bounce back.