Minnesota’s young women: Leaping in education, living home

I covered education for a decade in the Twin Cities before coming to MPR and the economy. So when I see data on either topic that surprise me, I want to know more.


I’m fascinated today by a newly released report from the state’s demography office detailing the education and economic changes of young people in Minnesota in the past decade.

I started looking at the gender splits in the data and didn’t know what to make of them.

I have a theory (keep reading). I’ll be following up with the study’s author. But I really need help understanding what might be happening. Take a look at the report and then tell me what you see. Post below or contact me directly at MinnEcon.

Here are the charts that got me interested. The first shows a significant increase during the decade in the percentage of young women living home. (Click on the chart for a larger view.)

My first thought was that it was recession related. We’ve written a bunch about the Great Recession forcing young adults back home with mom and dad. That wouldn’t explain, though, why the percentage of women at home has risen significantly while the percentage of males has stayed about the same during the decade. And the report discounts the recession’s effect

Trend data show a slightly higher percentage of young adults living with their parents now than in the past, though this shift may not be statistically significant. This change is probably not related to the recent recession, which did not begin until 2008.

Stagnant wages and higher rates of college attendance among women are possible factors.

The stagnant wages idea was interesting, though Census Bureau data shows Minnesota isn’t the worst in the nation.


So then I looked at the demographer’s data on college attendance.


We’ve written before about how Minnesota women are outpacing men in education. But you can really see the difference in the past decade.

So what does it mean?

Here’s my theory: Hmong women.

The emergence of Hmong girls and young women as academic success stories has really flown under the radar. But it’s there.

As a group, they’ve embraced education as the path to independence. Many, though, are still bound by family traditions.

That means many Hmong women live at home and help with family work at the same time they take on the rigors of college, which would explain the demographer’s data.

My colleague Sasha Aslanian produced a terrific story last fall on the generation of Hmong women in college. It was a first person account by Kao Choua Vue.

If you listen to that story and look back at the demography report, you can’t help but think something really good is happening. It’s evidence of an economic and social transformation underway.