The 2020 Census and reasons to be optimistic

Nationwide population growth for rural communities remains a challenge. The Census pointed out that over the last decade, the nation grew at its slowest rate since the 1930s.

Less than half of the nation’s 3,143 counties or equivalents gained population from 2010 to 2020, while the populations of around four-fifths of metro areas grew during the time period.

Between 2010 and 2020, the population of U.S. metro areas grew by 9% and the nation’s 10 largest incorporated places (cities) all grew this past decade.

Despite these statistics, at the end of 2020, a survey by Gallup reported that about half of Americans (48%) said that, if able to live anywhere they wished, they would choose a town (17%) or rural area (31%) rather than a city or suburb. This is a shift from 2018, when 39% thought a town or rural area would be ideal.

We can be optimistic about where we live based on key quality of life factors more frequently found in rural areas:

The vast outdoors

Larger city residents know the sounds and lights of the city never stop. In contrast, rural living offers the opportunity for unparalleled access to nature and outdoor recreation opportunities for every season. City parks and trails, Camden Regional Trail, Camden State Park, ADM/SMSU Environmental Learning Area, Marshall Golf Club, are a few such outdoor areas that add to our quality of where we live with lots of ways to stay active and involved. 

A good place to raise children

Marshall ranks in the top 3rd in MN when compared to other cities in family life, education, health and safety.


Small towns are great for community where most people know each other. People in rural areas depend on one another and get to know each other. Small towns foster close-knit communities.

Business opportunity

Local businesses find more support and less competition in smaller rural communities, and they don’t suffer as much from name brand competition.

Cost of living

Marshall’s affordability for rental and home ownership ranks near the top in Minnesota based on the lower cost of housing. Further, a recent report from the Center for Rural Policy and Development found that wages in rural Minnesota can go further in meeting the cost of living compared to the seven-county metro area. 

Shorter commutes times

The commute to and from work might be the best part of the day, or the worst. And a lot of that has to do with where you live. Marshall’s one-way commute time is 11.5 minutes and ranks near the top in Minnesota for the shortest commute.

Greater diversity

People of color are making up a greater share of populations in every county in the state, partly due to births and migration, but also because of a declining white non-Hispanic population. The city of Marshall’s non-white population increased from 17% to 27% during the time period of 2010 to 2020. Increased diversity improves our labor force, increases education enrollment, adds to economic development and when you interact, socialize, and work with people from different experiences, you can hear and learn from people.

Remote worker friendly

Finally, the key reasons above make Marshall an attractive place for remote work. Since you can live anywhere, why not live somewhere that’s affordable. And since remote work can get somewhat isolating over time, you’ll need to be in an area where you can easily connect with people.

Recently Marshall learned of the 2020 Census results and with much dismay, the results showed a small decrease in population for our city. Mayor Bob Byrnes quickly and correctly noted, the Census was taken at a time when the population was moving due to COVID-19 shutdowns, he said.

Having fewer students on campus at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in April could have been one influence on the city’s census results, he further added. After further analyzing new housing data and SMSU residential data, clearly the 2020 Census is not accurate for Marshall’s current population.

Marshall continues to be a regional center, the seat of Lyon County, located 160 miles southwest of Minneapolis and St. Paul and 90 miles northeast of Sioux Falls. Marshall’s service area extends 40 to 50 miles in all directions.

Affordable real estate. A great place to live, work and raise a family. Wide open spaces. This is Marshall.

— Sharon Hanson is the city administrator for the city of Marshall


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