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What Urban/Rural Divide? MN Research Group Finds Similarities

A Minnesota research group says rural and urban parts of the state may be different, but they are growing and changing in many similar ways. (Adobe Stock)
A Minnesota research group says rural and urban parts of the state may be different, but they are growing and changing in many similar ways. (Adobe Stock)
October 29, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Political debates in Minnesota have included a common component in recent years: noted differences between geographic areas.

But new findings from a research group show most parts of the state are seeing similar trends, while dealing with many of the same challenges.

Ellen Wolter, research scientist at The Wilder Foundation, led the project through Minnesota Compass, which measures social indicators around the state.

She said while there's a lot of focus on how different metro areas are when compared to Greater Minnesota, people might be surprised to know a lot of the same things are happening.

For example, she said most areas are struggling to find affordable housing for everyone.

"Around 24% of households are cost-burdened in Greater Minnesota compared with 27% in the Twin Cities, and that's just a 3% difference," Wolter explained. "So, that means overall, about a quarter of households, whether you're in Greater Minnesota or the Twin Cities region, are struggling to pay for housing."

The report also showed growth in racial and ethnic diversity isn't just happening in metro areas.

The findings show seven of the top 10 counties with the largest percentages of persons of color are in greater Minnesota.

On the flip side, aging populations aren't just a rural trend. Wolter pointed out several Twin Cities suburbs are among the 10 oldest cities in the state.

When it comes to additional challenges, Wolter noted broadband internet access still is a key problem in rural areas, especially due to infrastructure gaps. But she said affordably is a problem that's occurring all over.

"Low-income households, or even just lower-income households, are much less likely to have internet access," Wolter stated.

According to the report, in households with income of $20,000 or less, nearly half in all Greater Minnesota regions and 40% in the Twin Cities have no internet subscription at home. Wolter added that's a major obstacle at a time when many students are doing distance learning because of the pandemic.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN