We’re in a period of rapid demographic change—and that will have significant implications for Minnesota’s workforce, including in the transportation industry.
As Minnesota’s population continues to age for the next two decades, its emerging workforce will be more racially and ethnically diverse than those retiring. In a session at the Minnesota Airports Conference this spring, Peter Mathison with the Wilder Foundation shared these and other insights on Minnesota’s current population make-up and predictions of where it’s headed in the next 20 years.
Mathison is a research associate with Minnesota Compass, a social indicators project that measures progress in Minnesota and tracks trends in education, economy and workforce, health, housing, public safety, and other topics.
The largest share of the population in the state is currently working-age adults (ages 18–64) and the second largest is school-age children (ages 5–17). But around 2020, the older population (65 and older) will be the largest. “That’s significant because in no point of our history has our population looked like that,” Mathison said. “We’re in uncharted territory.”
Putting this in the context of an aging workforce, in 2024 there will be 3.1 million jobs in Minnesota, but only 2.7 million adults ages 18–64 who are working. That will leave 400,000 jobs in the state unfilled, Mathison noted. “We’re going to need all hands on deck.”
The productivity of four adults today needs to equal the productivity of two adults tomorrow if we want to support the quality of life of older adults.
So who will fill these jobs? Nearly all recent population growth in the state is from populations of color. Minnesota’s population of color has grown to one in five in 2015 and more than tripled since 1990. In 2035, one in four Minnesota residents will be people of color. Of the 87 counties in Minnesota, Mahnomen has the greatest share of residents of color. In general, counties with large Asian and Black populations tend to be in the metro area, while counties with large proportions of American Indian and Hispanic residents are in greater Minnesota.
Unfortunately, the state is home to some of the largest racial gaps in employment, the largest racial gap in home ownership, and the lowest high school graduation rates among students of color in the U.S. Most projected job openings will require at least some post-secondary education. While adult educational attainment has improved for some groups, improvements have been less dramatic for the Black, Asian, and American Indian populations.
“We really need to fix the educational attainment disparities to meet the education needs of tomorrow’s workforce,” Mathison said. If we could close the gaps by race, in 2030 we could see 68,000 additional adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher, 138,000 more adults working, and 272,000 fewer people living below the poverty line. That would also result in $14 billion in additional household income and $1.6 billion in additional tax revenues.
Minnesota Compass gives all Minnesotans—policymakers, business and community leaders, and concerned individuals—a common foundation to identify, understand, and act on issues that affect its communities. For those wanting data for their community, Compass offers resources that include pre-packaged and customized profiles. These profiles are available for the state as a whole, the seven regions of the state, the 87 counties, and all cities with populations greater than 1,000. Each profile contains demographic information and data across Compass topic areas.
The Minnesota Airports Conference is sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Airports and the Minnesota Department of Transportation and facilitated by the Airport Technical Assistance Program (AirTAP), a program housed at CTS.