Clockwise from top left: 2023 Juneteenth parade in north Minneapolis; performers with "The Buddha Prince" play; 2021 Earth Day celebration; and Courtney (left) and Taya Morgan (right), with their son Zayvior. Credit: Aaron Nesheim and Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

Minnesota’s communities of color grew in population last year, but they continued to experience disparities in poverty and unemployment, according to new data released from the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday. 

The data was released as part of the bureau’s American Community Survey, an annual poll of U.S. residents that measures demographic changes and topics such as what modes of transportation people use to get to work, how many households use solar energy, and educational achievement, among many others.

Minnesota saw slight population growth last year in the state’s communities of color while the white population—about 4.4 million people—stayed stable between 2021 and 2022; communities of color made up about 1.3 million of the state’s residents last year.

The Census estimates the state’s total population at about 5.7 million people for 2022.

The American Community Survey is conducted and released every year. It surveys a total of 1.9 million people across the country through phone, mail, and online questionnaires. The survey samples around 63,000 Minnesota residents each year, a size that Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower calls one of the biggest and most reliable of its kind. 

Brower said her office uses the American Community Survey data “for thousands of things, including making labor force projections, or getting an estimate of a certain population that a policy might impact.”

“It’s one of the most important data sources we have,” she said. “We use it every day to understand Minnesota’s communities.”

The most recent American Community Survey was conducted in 2022.

Brower was especially interested in data about poverty and income. The state’s overall poverty level remained relatively unchanged between 2021 and 2022, and the unemployment rate was down last year. However, both still remain higher than they were in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Discrepancies between white Minnesotans and Minnesotans of color are wide when it comes to poverty and income, Brower said.

“BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] populations had more serious consequences because of the pandemic,” Brower said. 

Minnesota’s poverty level stagnant, racial discrepancies persist

Some communities of color experienced slight upticks in poverty last year, but the state’s overall poverty rate in 2022—9.6 percent—remained unchanged from the previous year. There was also relatively no change in poverty rates in the white and Asian communities.

The survey followed federal guidelines, which defines poverty as a household income of $30,000 or less for a family of four. 

The state’s overall poverty level was at 11 percent at the start of the 2010s following the Great Recession. Poverty slowly declined each year during that decade, bottoming out at 9 percent in 2019. 

Poverty numbers were higher for Minnesotans of color in 2022. The percentage of Black Minnesotans in poverty that year was close to 25 percent, an increase of more than 4 percentage points from the year before.

Roughy 17 percent of Latino Minnesotans were in poverty in 2022, up from about 15 percent the year before.

The state’s American Indian population saw the highest poverty levels among all groups, increasing from 24 percent in 2021 to 30 percent in 2022. But Brower noted that the survey’s findings for the American Indian population is less reliable because the community has a small sample size compared to the other racial groups. 

The survey’s margin of error for American Indian poverty numbers, for example, is 5 percent. 

About 12 percent of Minnesota’s Asian residents were in poverty in 2022 and 2021. The poverty level for white Minnesotans hovered around 7 percent for both years, the lowest of all racial groups. 

“The poverty gap between white residents and BIPOC residents tends to be higher in Minnesota than nationally overall or in other states,” Brower said. “I don’t believe anyone would say it’s attributed to one thing. It’s many different factors and a long-term system of inequality in the state and nation.”

Unemployment dropping, but remains higher in communities of color

The state saw a drop in unemployment from 2021 to 2022. About 3 percent of people ages 16 to 64, which Brower said is the “prime working age population,” were unemployed in 2022, according to the Census. That’s a decline from about 5 percent the year before. 

The unemployment rate is defined by the number of people who reported not participating in the workforce and who were currently looking for a job. 

The largest rate of unemployment was in the Black community at 8 percent, which was down  from 11 percent the year before. 

The Latino community’s unemployment rate was cut nearly in half between 2021 and 2022, from nearly 8 percent to 4 percent. The unemployment rate for white residents dropped from 4 percent to about 3 percent in those same years. 

Asian residents saw the lowest unemployment rate, which dropped from about 4 percent in 2021 to just under 3 percent in 2022. 

The state saw a steady decline in unemployment throughout the 2010s, a spike at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a gradual drop after 2021. 

Slight growth in communities of color

The Census data showed that the state’s Black, American Indian, Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and Hispanic and Latino communities each grew by about 6,000 to 10,000 individuals last year. 

The largest growth was among Black residents, who numbered about 398,000 in 2022 compared to about 388,000 in 2021.

New immigrant communities are growing in Minnesota

There are nearly 500,000 foreign-born people in Minnesota, according to this year’s American Community Survey data. The survey shows the growth in existing immigrant communities, as well as immigration from countries that weren’t listed in Minnesota’s survey results from five years ago.

Respondents for the 2022 survey reported the following countries as their place of birth, nations that weren’t reported in the same survey conducted in 2017. While these communities are small, they indicate potential new and growing populations in the state:

  • Bhutan
  • Azerbaijan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zimbabwe
  • Congo 
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Algeria
  • Ivory Coast
  • Senegal
  • Togo

The survey data also shows a notable growth in some immigrant populations since 2017. For example, 71 people in the 2017 survey reported being born in Afghanistan, compared to 2,261 in 2022. Minnesota was part of an emergency response to resettle Afghan refugees escaping the country after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021. 

For other countries in Asia, respondents born in Iran increased 1.5 times since 2017. Respondents from Sri Lanka almost doubled. Respondents from Uzbekistan, while a small population of 576 people, saw a five-fold increase since 2017.

Populations from countries in the middle of Africa nearly doubled since 2017, increasing from over 3,518 individuals to 6,415 last year. They came from Cameroon, Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Respondents born in Kenya saw a 42 percent increase since 2017.

The number of respondents born in Egypt doubled in the last five years from 2,308 to 4,765 individuals.

In 2017, 527 respondents said they were born in Chile compared to 3,106 people in 2022. Nearby countries like Ecuador, Uruguay, and Haiti also saw small increases.

Data from the 2022 survey shows that overall, most of Minnesotan’s foreign-born residents came from Southeast Asia followed by East Africa and Central America.

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal covering immigration and politics. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. She’s a graduate...

Cynthia Tu is a data reporting fellow at Sahan Journal. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School with a master's degree in data journalism.