Young Americans Have Been Flocking to Energy Industry Opportunities in North Dakota and the Middle Part of America


Oil pumps

Sometimes it’s hard to describe to people how much I love North Dakota.

I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and spent the first ten years of my life in Wasilla. When my family moved here the 4th grade version of me resented it. I loved the mountains and the trees. I wasn’t sure how to feel about flat, treeless prairie.

Also, fun fact, when we were moving here I thought North Dakotans were going to be saying “y’all” and stuff. I told my friends we were moving to “the south,” which from the perspective of an Alaskan was the truth. Instead I got a bunch of “you betcha’s.”

There was some culture shock.

Anyway, I’ve come to adore this state. The people. The history. Even the weather. So I don’t like it when people crack jokes at North Dakota’s expense, making it seem like this wonderful place is desolate and boring.

On the other hand, I am ecstatic when people come here and find what I’ve found.

That it’s a pretty great place to live.

Which is why I’m excited about what the U.S. Census bureau is telling us about age demographics here. Not only is North Dakota’s population growing…

…but our population is getting younger too. In fact, this state is the only state in the nation that got younger over the last decade:

BISMARCK — North Dakota was the only state to get younger this decade, according to recent census data touted by state officials Thursday, June 20.

North Dakota’s median age stood at 35.2 years in 2018, down from 37 years in 2010, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s below the median ages in neighboring South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana, which clocked in at 37.1, 38.1 and 39.9 years, respectively, the state Department of Commerce said.

You can get more data from the Census Bureau, including this map showing which counties across the country have seen the drop in median age. As you can see, it’s the energy industry that’s driving a lot of this. The counties seeing declines in median age are concentrated around oil plays like the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana. The Denver Basin in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas. The Permian basin in the west Texas panhandle. The North Slope of Alaska.

It speaks volumes about how important energy development has been to the national economy:

Remember, these numbers represent median age change over the last decade, so what we are seeing is a lot of young people flocking to opportunities in the center of the country, and a lot of those opportunities are related to the energy industry.

Certainly that’s what’s been driving North Dakota’s population boom and median age decline.

It’s a big deal because, even now that the oil boom in our part of the world is over, transitioning to a more stable trend of growth and production, we’ve seen a lot of new people come to our communities. Younger people who are going to put down roots. Start families.

We’re going to be see ramifications from these things in our state for generations to come.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch.