Look up your town on Wilder’s new Minnesota data

Why these two small-town web site screenshots? Because I can now easily compare the places I grew up.

Minneota imageIf you’re interested in tracking demographics in rural Minnesota, there’s a new way to do it.

Wilder Research has just launched its Minnesota Compass project to pull together data — numbers that track population, income, immigration, health, commuting and more –  for small towns throughout the state. You can find one-page profiles of the more than 300 cities in the state that have populations over 1,000.

Wilder has been steadily expanding the value of its Compass data-providing efforts, first covering the Twin Cities, then expanding to all 87 counties and now getting down to smaller geographies. It’s a great place for a quick hit snapshot of a community.

My instinct when I see something like this is to immediately plug in the two towns I grew up in — Minneota and Madelia.

The biggest demographic difference between these two towns? Madelia has a high concentration of immigrant residents. Nearly 30 percent of the town is Latino and about 14 percent of the town is foreign born.

By looking at the Minnesota Compass numbers,  you can see how that might be playing out:

  • At 48, Minneota’s median age is significantly higher.
  • Minneota, the smaller of the two, has a higher voter turnout.
  • While the median income is higher in Madelia, the poverty rate is lower in Minneota.
  • Minneota kids do better on test scores but graduation rates are similar.
  • Minneota has a far greater rate of home ownership.

If nothing else, the comparison portrays how varied the demographic landscape can be in rural Minnesota. It’s not all vanilla ice cream, if it ever was, and this is a good new tool to help see the many flavors.

So far, on the Minnesota Compass site, you have to look up the towns one by one. But the folks at Wilder are working on ways to make comparisons easier.

Coming soon, I’m told.