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New census results show surprising trends in Twin Cities
By Art Hughes
Minnesota Public Radio
November 20, 2001

A survey released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows St. Paul residents outrank their Minneapolis counterparts in household income. The survey also shows Anoka County residents spend as much time commuting as people living in Los Angeles County. The survey of 700,000 Americans is a snapshot of various characteristics, but experts warn its relative inaccuracy makes it valuable for only broad comparisons.

•MEDIAN HOME VALUE: Minneapolis - $126,000; St. Paul - $117,000.
•MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: Minneapolis - $40,000; St. Paul - $45,000.
•RESIDENTS LIVING BELOW THE POVERTY LINE: Minneapolis - 13.5 percent; St. Paul - 11 percent.
•AVERAGE COMMUTE TIME: Anoka County residents - 28 minutes; Hennepin County residents - 21 minutes; Los Angeles County residents - 28 minutes.
•RESIDENTS COMMUTING ALONE: Anoka and Dakota counties - 80 percent; Hennepin and Ramsey counties - 75 percent.

The median value of a home is higher in Minneapolis - $126,000 - compared to $117,000 in St. Paul. But St. Paul residents make more money than Minneapolitans. The median household income in St. Paul is just over $45,000. In Minneapolis, it's just over $40,000. Dakota County has the highest median income of the survey areas, with more than $66,000 per household.

The survey only includes data for Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Dakota counties and the Twin Cities, based on population. The survey has a wide margin of error. For instance, St. Paul's household income level ranges from a low of almost $41,000 to a high of $50,000. The data provide a slightly more detailed look at statewide information released last August.

The survey shows Anoka County commuters take longer to get to work than drivers in the other three counties. The median commute time in Anoka County is 28 minutes, the same as Los Angeles County. Hennepin County commuters take slightly more than 21 minutes to get to work. The national average is just over 24 minutes.

"Personally, I'd have thought the drive time would have been longer in Hennepin County in 2000," says Bill Dando, a planner for Hennepin County. "I think it's illuminating - at least with this preliminary look at the data - that the average drive time is indeed that short."

Dando says while the survey results are interesting, their relative inaccuracy make them useless from a public policy standpoint.

"Because the sample size is so small and because they're releasing information for Minneapolis, St. Paul and a few counties, a lot of the variation - a lot of the interesting stuff - is buried, masked by patterns," Dando says. "For example, the average poverty is masked by high income somewhere else. It's going to be very interesting, but it's going to limit what we can draw from it."

The survey sampled 700,000 households in 1,200 counties across the United States. It counted almost 4,000 households in Minnesota. There was no such survey in 1990, so the Census Bureau warns against making comparisons over time.

Minnesota state demographer Tom Gillaspy says the survey could eventually become an important source of demographic data.

"We have to look at these as broad, general comparisons, and not put too fine a number on it. This is really a very large trial run for a much larger survey that's going to be conducted in the future - in the next couple years," Gillaspy says.

The supplemental survey was done at the same time as the census headcount in 2000. The Census Bureau is testing whether the survey can replace the information gathered in the arduous long form that was sent to one out of every six households in the country.

All the areas surveyed report driving alone to work is the most popular form of commuting. About 80 percent of those in suburban Anoka and Dakota counties drive solo, compared to Hennepin and Ramsey drivers, each at about 75 percent.

Hennepin and Ramsey counties are nearly even in the percentage of residents with college degrees - both are approximately 38 percent. Hennepin ranks 31st among the listed counties nationwide, while Ramsey is 33rd. St. Paul has slightly more residents speaking languages other than English at home with about 23 percent. Minneapolis has 20 percent.

Minneapolis has 13.5 percent of its residents living below the federally defined poverty level, compared to St. Paul's 11 percent.

The Census Bureau will compare the survey to the data scheduled for release next spring, which is based on the much larger number of responses to the census's long form questionnaire.

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