When parents pull out the family album and look back at old photos of their children they're often jolted at the change that's taken place in just a few years.
Similarly, comparisons that come to light every 10 years when the federal census is released also offer some startling revelations about Minnesota, outstate Minnesota and the Brainerd area.
Measured by almost any criteria, the 1990s will be remembered as an incredible period of prosperity in Minnesota. And the wealth extended beyond the limits of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Consider the following items:
-- Median income actually grew faster in rural Minnesota (23 percent) than in the metro area (17 percent).
-- Poverty fell in every single county in the state to an average of 7.9 percent, compared to a national poverty rate of 12.4 percent.
-- Dramatic turnarounds in counties with Indian-run casinos were seen in the last decade. Mille Lacs County's poverty rate was 81 percent in 1990. The 2000 poverty rate in Mille Lacs County was 16.8 percent.
-- A substantial segment of the housing in Crow Wing, Aitkin and Cass counties is relatively new. And it's not cheap.
The housing figures are particularly interesting. The percentage of houses built in the 1990s is: Crow Wing (23.8 percent), Aitkin (20.5) and Cass (21.4). The statewide average is 16 percent.
The increase in the median home value for the same three counties from 1990-2000 is: Crow Wing (up 55 percent), Aitkin (up 50 percent) and Cass (up 64 percent).
What's the upshot of these census tidbits? It's certainly not that everyone in the Brainerd lakes area is rolling in money. There's plenty of folks who still struggle making ends meet.
Perhaps the census results just drive home the point that central Minnesota has undergone drastic changes in the past 10 years. If this region ever was a sleepy little backwater area that time has long since passed.
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