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U.S. Census data shows most young adult Minnesotans settle close to home

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, released in late July 2022, shows most Minnesotas growing up in metro regions tend to stay closer to home while members of the rural population tend to leave home. However, Douglas and surrounding counties may be an exception.

EP Douglas County
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DOUGLAS COUNTY — At the end of July, the U.S. Census Bureau released data that indicates that on average, 80% of Americans live within 100 miles of their hometowns.

For metro regions like the Twin Cities, Duluth and Fargo-Moorhead area, 74% of the young adult population grew up there. In rural parts of Minnesota, however, less than 40% remain near their hometowns.

The report collected data from adults born between 1984 and 1992 and broke it down between various commuting zones in each state — groups of counties surrounding a town or city.

Douglas County falls into the Fergus Falls commuting zone which includes Douglas, Pope, Grant, Stevens and Otter Tail counties. In contrast to the findings that young adults in rural areas leave home, the report shows that 63% of the young adult population living in the zone for this area grew up in the area.

What separates Douglas and other neighboring counties from falling into the rural statistics?

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Sarah House, 35, of Battle Lake believes that it is family and hometown pride that keep people in Douglas County's commuting zone close to home.

House grew up just north of Melby and graduated from Evansville in 2005. After college, she began work as a nanny for families across the country. From Wyoming to New York, then Florida and eventually California, House has experienced different life styles and environments. But, when it came time to settle down, she went home.

"Ultimately, it was family," House said when asked why she came back. "And the good people in this area. When you get to see a lot of the United States you realize how great it is here. They say you don't know what you got till it's gone."

House speculates that it's also pride people have for their hometowns.

"We want to see the next generation come up in this area. We believe in this area," House added.

Just like House, for Jordyn Cantalope, coming back home to Alexandria meant being close to family but also a job opportunity.

"I didn't know that I would end up back here. Growing up, I was like most high schoolers and thought, 'I'm never going back,'" said Cantalope. "I think we all think that but then when you go away, you realize how great it is... I think this is just where I'm meant to be."

After graduating from Jefferson High School in 2010, Cantalope moved to Brookings, South Dakota to study event management at South Dakota State University. After finishing college in 2016, she landed a job at an event center. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the event world and she lost her job.

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When looking for new opportunities, she saw what home had to offer and took a job at Rauk Family Dentistry. Recently, she was hired as the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission community outreach coordinator.

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Nicole Fernholz

"I think that we as communities are trying to engage the youth — show them through education and occupational opportunities that it is possible to migrate back (or stay) where you have a sense of place and purpose," said Nicole Fernholz, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission director, when asked why most stay close to the area where they grew up.

Is it important for the young community to stay close to home?

"Our growth lies largely on engaging with those already living here," Fernholz added. "If we create efforts to invest in these young people and show them that they can have a future here, we can deepen the connections with the next generation of community leaders."

Although the study from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that young adults in rural areas move away, findings from the University of Minnesota Extension show that most move back in their later adult years after they have obtained an education and/or work experience. According to UME's website, " People migrate to rural communities for a simpler life, safety and security, affordable housing, outdoor recreation, and quality schools.

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIADOUGLAS COUNTY
Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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