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Construction crews work on a home on Desiree Drive on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Given an eight percent population growth in Grand Forks since 2010, new home construction is a constant process. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

Census data shows continued trend of movement to urban areas in ND

GRAND FORKS—Though Grand Forks cannot claim the title of North Dakota's largest city, it continues to keep pace with the state's other largest towns.

Since the 2010 census, Kevin Iverson, census office manager with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said Grand Forks has grown by about 4,218 people, or 8 percent.

From 2016 to 2017, Grand Forks, the third-largest city in the state, saw an estimated increase of 222 people, for a population total of 57,056. Though Fargo was home to the largest population in 2017 with 122,359 residents—2,000 of whom were new—Keith Lund of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. said each community has attributes that draw people to the area.

Population estimates are created each year by the U.S. Census Bureau using administrative records. Iverson said these records are formulated mainly from tax data, Medicaid, Medicare, and birth and death records from the Centers for Disease Control.

At the county level, data on where houses and apartments are being built is analyzed to determine population numbers and movement.

In the eastern part of the state, Iverson said migration trends follow those that are common across the country—of people moving from rural areas to urban centers. The cities of Fargo and Grand Forks prove that this trend is true in North Dakota.

"There's been a long-term trend towards consolidating the urban areas," he said.

But he noted that in the western part of the state, the opposite was also true. He said the oil boom helped transform small communities into cities with populations of more than 2,500, the threshold for a city to be considered urban, and pointed to Watford City as a prime example. A town of 1,744 people in 2010, Iverson said Watford City's population in 2017 was 6,523.

Iverson said the age range that moves is typically 18 to 34 and that men are more mobile than women. Another trend he noted was the tendency of elderly people moving into cities. He said there were a few reasons this trend could exist, including proximity to medical and other services and being closer to family as the main factors.

Bismarck maintained its spot as the second largest city in North Dakota with 72,865, up by more than 500 from 2016.

The state's largest county in 2017 was Cass County with an estimated population of 177,787.

With the exception of the past two years, North Dakota has seen a net gain in population in recent years. Iverson said the oil boom had an impact on this movement and the strong economy of North Dakota in recent years helped draw college graduates and others seeking jobs to the area.

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