St. Croix projected to remain one of state’s fastest-growing counties

Posted April 6, 2016

Over the next two decades, St. Croix County will continue to be one of the fastest-growing counties in the state of Wisconsin, according to population projections done by UW-Madison Applied Population Laboratory for the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

Demographer David Egan-Robertson at the Applied Population Laboratory conducted the study in 2013. Both St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan statistical area (MSA). He said the close proximity to the Twin Cities is a key factor in the growth, adding that the migration is mainly into St. Croix County, but also slightly into Pierce County.

“A lot of people, particularly young adults, who may have started their careers in the Twin Cities, as they get older and might be looking to buy their first home, a lot of those people, in the last couple decades, have actually purchased homes in St. Croix County,” Egan-Robertson said in a telephone interview.

According to the projections, St. Croix County is expected to see its population swell to more than 119,000 by the year 2040, up from the 84,345 recorded in the 2010 census. The city of Hudson alone is expected to reach a population of 20,780 by 2040.

The aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 has affected population numbers in areas all over the nation, not just the St. Croix River Valley. Egan-Robertson says during economic downturns, people are more anxious about moving and starting families, therefore birth rates also fall.

As the nation has continued to climb out of the recession, more people have become willing to migrate. However, birth rates still have yet to recover, according to Egan-Robertson. The study credits St. Croix County’s birth rate among Wisconsin counties as a factor in the population increase.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area recently reached a population milestone of its own, recently surpassing 3 million residents in the seven Minnesota counties that surround the Twin Cities. This is the highest population in history, according to the Metropolitan Council.

As this area continues its growth, a spillover effect should be seen into the St. Croix River Valley, according Brad Kruse, philanthropy director for the State of the Valley.

State of the Valley is a community indicators project that collects data from a number a different sources to provide a county-by-county synopsis of a variety of demographic data, such as median household income, population numbers and poverty rates.

“People are moving to areas for all the classic reasons,” Kruse, who has lived and worked in the valley for 13 years, said in a phone interview. “People are looking for economic opportunities, jobs, looking for affordable housing, and then looking for strong communities.”

Both Kruse and Egan-Robertson said housing in the rural areas of Wisconsin is more affordable than housing in the suburban and urban areas of the Twin Cities. The cost of living in also cheaper, and income and sales tax rates are also lower on the Wisconsin side of the river.

When Egan-Robertson conducted his study, he used data from past censuses to help with projections. He noted that when it comes to these projections, the Applied Population Laboratory is simply predicting trends by analyzing those of the past.

“And making inferences about what will happen with those patterns as you go forward,” Egan-Robertson said. “A lot of the methodology really hinges on the assumption that ‘past is prologue.'”

Both Pierce and St. Croix counties have seen a steady increase in population over the last 30 years. However in Pierce County, the numbers have leveled off during the past 10 years.

St. Croix County led all other counties in projections with an expected 41 percent population increase from 2010-2040, according the data presented in Egan-Robertson’s study. Pierce County trailed St. Croix but still is expected to see a 14 percent increase. For context, Eau Claire and Chippewa counties are projected to have a 13 percent increase.