The data offer estimates of every county in the Union from 2000 to 2009. What do the data tell us about South Dakota?
- South Dakota's population grew 7.6% over those nine years, from 754,835 to 812,383.
- 20 counties gained population. 46 lost.
- 90% of our population growth came from five counties: Minnehaha, Lincoln, Pennington, Union, and Brookings.
- Biggest population gain by number: Minnehaha County, up 34,781. (Minnehaha has seen double-digit percentage growth every decade since 1900.)
- Biggest gain by percentage: Lincoln County, up 70.7% (with growth since 1970).
- Biggest loss by number: Hutchinson County, down 951 people. (Hutchinson hasn't posted a decade of population growth since 1930.)
- Biggest loss by percentage: Campbell County, down 24.6%. (Also no growth since 1930.)
- The statewide increase was a bit sluggish at the beginning of the decade, inching along at 0.4% in 2001 and 2002. Things picked up between 2003 and 2004. In four of the last six years, we've seen population growth of 1% or better.
Gubernatorial and legislative candidates, pay attention: the majority of our county and city governments are facing declining populations. Even if campaigning focuses your attention on the population centers, governing will require attention to the population fringes, where every year there are fewer people to generate the economic activity and tax revenue necessary to maintain services and infrastructure designed for more people.
Positive statewide numbers should not obscure the fact that we have a lot more Detroit than Phoenix on our hands in South Dakota. Dennis Daugaard's "small-town specialists" may work to help small communities grow, but they will also need to confront decline with pragmatic policies like county consolidation.
Web Bonus: Google's public data machine offers this interactive graph of state and county population since 1980! Click! Explore! Learn!