People Are Fleeing North Dakota. Here’s Where They’re Plotting to Move to.


Once a leader in oil and gas production, North Dakota is currently seeing a population drop as people move elsewhere in search of better prospects. North Dakota lost 4,901 persons between July 2019 and July 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This represents the third-highest percentage loss in the country, at 0.6%. left of the 50 states, the state also had the lowest net migration rate, which indicates that fewer people migrated in than left. What caused this migration, and where are these people who used to live in North Dakota going?

Economic Downturn

The slump in the economy brought on by the demise of the oil and gas industry is one of the primary reasons why people are leaving North Dakota. Fossil fuel extraction and processing, which accounted for 40% of the state’s GDP in 2019, are vital to the economy of the state.

However, a severe decrease in demand and prices brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic and the world’s oil glut has forced many oil and gas businesses to reduce production, lay off employees, or declare bankruptcy. Consequently, the unemployment rate in North Dakota increased from 2.3% in February 2020 to 8.7% in April 2020, the highest since 1983. Even with the improvement to 4.4% in December 2020, the unemployment rate remains higher than the 3.5% national average.

Other areas of the state’s economy, including retail, hospitality, construction, and education, have also been impacted by the loss of jobs and revenue. Numerous small enterprises have shut down or scaled back, and some local governments have had to make service concessions due to financial shortages. When comparing the first half of 2020 to the same time in 2019, the state’s tax revenue decreased by 8.5%.

Many people in North Dakota find it difficult to pay the state’s 10% higher than average cost of living due to the state’s economic hardships. The average cost of living in the state is the highest in the nation for both one-bedroom apartment rentals ($1,122) and power bills ($158).

Harsh Weather and Isolation

The severe weather and remote location of North Dakota are other factors contributing to the state’s population exodus. One of the harshest climates in the country may be found in North Dakota, which has regular blizzards, tornadoes, and floods along with long, cold winters and brief, scorching summers.

The state has the lowest average yearly temperature of any of the contiguous states at 40.4 F. With just 17.8 inches of rain and snowfall on average each year, the state also has the least amount of precipitation. Transportation, agriculture, health, and recreation can all be negatively impacted by the weather.

With just 11 persons per square mile and 36% of its inhabitants residing in rural areas, North Dakota is also one of the least populous and rural states in the union. Out of all the 50 states, the state has the lowest population density and the fourth-smallest population. The state s largest city, Fargo, has only 124,662 citizens, while the capital, Bismarck, has only 73,529. Certain persons may experience feelings of boredom, isolation, or loneliness due to a lack of social opportunities, cultural diversity, or metropolitan amenities.

Where Are They Moving to?

The top five states in terms of North Dakota immigration in 2019 were Minnesota, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and California, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Compared to North Dakota, these states have certain advantages like cheaper cost of living, greater job opportunities, bigger and more diverse cities, and warmer weather.

For instance, while Minnesota and North Dakota are bordered states, the former has a more diverse economy, a higher median family income, and a lower poverty rate. It also has a comparable culture and history. Along with being a significant producer of gas and oil, Texas also boasts a more robust economy, a lower unemployment rate, and fewer taxes. There are more sunny days, more beautiful scenery, and more recreational opportunities in Arizona, Colorado, and California.


People are leaving North Dakota in search of better opportunities elsewhere, which is causing the state’s population to fall. The economic crisis brought on by the demise of the oil and gas industry, the state’s severe climate and isolation, and the lure of other states with more benefits are the primary causes of this migration. To draw and keep more people in the future, North Dakota might need to invest in infrastructure, diversify its economy, and raise the standard of living.

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