5 x 8: Minnesota’s disappearing Nords


The culture of Minnesota is disappearing. The Swedish and Norwegian roots that so shape what and who Minnesota is may not live much longer, at least to the degree that has imprinted the region.

In just five years, the Star Tribune says, the number of Twin Cities metro residents calling themselves German-, Norwegian- or Swedish-American — the three biggest groups, by far — has dropped by nearly 100,000.

The percentage of Germans is also declining.

Could we become New Orleans without the French? Utah without the Mormons?


Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and National Geographic editor, penned a piece for USA Today taking the nation’s airlines apart for all of the fees they now charge passengers.

And the travel industry pulled a fast one on top of it. Some companies, notably airlines, promised customers that unbundling offered the “flexibility” to pay for only what they use — and nothing more.

But there’s no convincing evidence that they lowered their prices when they unbundled, which is what should have happened. Instead, they just added new fees to their rates, undermining their argument that they were helping you. Helping themselves to more of your money is more like it. The numbers are truly staggering: Airlines collected $27.1 billion in fees and other “ancillary” revenue last year, up nearly 20% from 2011. Other sectors of travel are doing their darnedest to emulate this so-called success.

Truth is, there’s a growing sense that unbundling, at least the way the travel industry has done it, isn’t right. Not only did the airlines implement these extras in a dishonest way and then resort to telling half-truths when explaining them to their customers, but they also often fail to adequately disclose unbundled fees before a purchase.

It’s been a good thing, the Cranky Flier blog counters this morning.

With the new unbundled structure, those who just wanted basic transportation may not have seen fares go down, but if they went up at all, it’s a lot less than would have happened without unbundling. Yes, they got fewer frills with that fare, but for the first time, they had the choice on whether to pay for everything above and beyond basic transportation. Many people don’t want that, and they pay less today because of it. For those who do want all the frills, however, unbundling has meant they pay more. In other words, without unbundling, the traveler wanting basic transportation would have paid more in order to subsidize the traveler wanting all the frills. That’s why Southwest is often more expensive than other airlines for you today if you aren’t checking bags or making changes. You’re paying for those benefits even if you don’t use them.

Now here’s the kicker. People view fees differently than they do fares. They’re much more price sensitive when it comes to paying base airfare than when it comes to paying fees. So if the old structure still existed, fewer people would have been willing to pay those high fares, and that means airlines would have had to cut capacity even more than they already have. There would be fewer choices for everyone and the fares would be higher.

Cranky Flier says some airline passengers aren’t subsidizing others anymore.


One in every seven Minnesotans has a DWI conviction. Many of them are repeat offenders. They should be glad they’re not in Texas.

In Hays County, Rose Ann Davidson, 44, was pulled over for driving erratically last year and police found an open container of beer.

She’s been sentenced to life in prison.

4) 20 UNDER 40

The Duluth News Tribune has released its list of 20 individuals under the age of 40 who are setting trends and making a difference in the Northland. It’s tonic for oldtimers. “Don’t fixate on building a career. Dig in and build a life. The career can follow,” writes one young individual.


Joey Prusak of Hopkins deserves a tip. According to Reddit, he stood up for a blind customer who dropped a $20 bill, which was scooped up by a woman who refused to give it back.


Prusak tells WCCO he received a call from International Dairy Queen and was told he’ll be receiving “something” in the mail.

Related: Online fund for Glen James, homeless man, nears $100k (Boston Globe).

Bonus: What would happen if you asked high school students to help create a 21st-century portrait of the country by turning their cameras on their neighborhoods, families, friends and schools? This. And it’s beautiful (Lens blog)


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The inconsistency of American foreign policy.

Second hour: Redesigning Nicollet Mall.

Third hour: Tom Weber speaks with Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek about marijuana laws

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): NPR’s Cokie Roberts, who gave the 7th annual Eugene McCarthy Lecture at St. John’s University yesterday.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The roll-out of the Affordable Care Act and the confusion surrounding it create a dream come true for scam artists. The Federal Trade Commission has investigated nearly 300 consumer complaints nationwide related to ACA scams, from email spam to false mailings and questionable phone calls, and now cases are popping up in Minnesota. Consumer advocacy groups are urging consumers to keep their private information to themselves to avoid getting caught by a scam artist trying to cash in on the ACA. Trish Volpe will have the story.

Insect larvae may provide an innovative approach to combatting world hunger. They are among the world’s best waste recyclers, feeding on material humans don’t need. And they can processed into animal feed or fish meal. NPR will have the story.

  • MrE85

    1) As Ole said to Lena, “De longer ve live here, diverse it gets.” I, for one, welcome the new face of Minnesota. This is a great place to live.

    • joetron2030

      LOL. Nicely done.

  • Aaron Brown

    Intermarriage among Scandinavians has made it difficult to classify what you are. I’m Swedish-American, Norwegian-American and Finnish-American, among several other things. You ask me what I am, I have a hard time pinning it down. As these immigrant groups reach their fifth generation it’s likely they’re still around, in some form, just not in a recognizable form. Other than, ya know, Minnesotan. So they drop off the radar of surveys.

  • @MrE85:disqus: Groan!

    Re: DQ story. Bravo to Joey! But, should I worry for our future if the letter writer does not honestly know the difference between “was blinded” and “was blind”? Points, though, for good spelling!

    Re: Increase MN diversity. Must be happening elsewhere in the country, too, where there were once large settlements of immigrants. E.g., how “Irish” is Boston, nowadays? We’ll have to invent a whole new slew of stereotypes, because the next generation will have absolutely no reference with which to frame “paddy” wagon.

  • Mark in Ohio

    In response to point 2, I have heard that part of the reason the fee structure is being used is to avoid paying certain Federal taxes. The fare is subject to taxes, but service charges and fees aren’t, so technically it’s legal. I wonder how long until the airlines start complaining about the amount of funding available from the Government to support their activities?

  • John Peschken

    The farther we get from the immigrant generation, the more we get mixed up. My grand parents went to the German Catholic Church, never the French Catholic Church down the street. My dad called himself German, but it was Prussia at the time his ancestors came over. There is some evidence that those “German” ancestors actually came from Russia not that long before the immigration. We tend to hang a lot of that identity on where the generation that immigrated departed from, but that can be deceiving. People moved around even then, usually pushed by famine or the latest war.

    I am adopted, and can find Irish, German, French, Jewish, Lebanese, and Spanish people in my family tree. One son married a Swedish/Norwegian the other a full blooded Korean immigrant. My grandchildren are a real ethnic stew.

    There comes a time when we have to call ourselves Americans and Minnesotans. That time isabout here, I think. It’s nice! No matter what ethnic group is having a celebration, I can probably claim some heritage and feel part of it.

    • DavidG

      Speaking of Germans from Russia, the NDSU Libraries has an office that maintains a Germans from Russia Heritage collection: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/

  • Alex

    Quibble: New Orleans hasn’t been French for a long time. In the 19th Century German and Italian immigration overwhelmed the small native French-speaking population. The New Orleans accent sounds like other cities with strong German-Italian backgrounds, most commonly compared to Brooklyn. “Native” New Orleans cuisine is very Eye-talian, the Andouille you get there is very similar to what we’d call an Italian Sausage. Of course Cajun country is not far from New Orleans so you can get good, authentic Cajun food in the city but my understanding is that the Cajuns never had a unified presence there (i.e. there has never been a Cajun neighborhood in New Orleans).

  • Kat S.

    If the culture of Minnesota is a Scandinavian/German culture, I guess, yeah, it’s less prevalent now. I’m a product of most of the old major immigrant strains in Minnesota (Scandinavian, British Isles, German/Austrian), and I it doesn’t feel to me like that part of my heritage is in danger of disappearing altogether. It just gets to take too damn long to list every component of my heritage.

    But I get it– I also grew up in the middle of St. Paul, in Midway and Como, watching new immigrants shape my city. It’s their city as much as it is mine; doesn’t matter that my grandfather left a farm in McLeod county and theirs left one in Laos. A couple generations from now, we may be worried that the Hmong and Somali roots that helped define Twin Cities culture are fading.

    We only become a New Orleans without the French– that is, a place defined by a culture that no longer exists– if we try to freeze what “Minnesotan” means.

    My Austrian ancestors who’d been here since the founding of the state didn’t succeed in doing that when my Scandinavian ancestors immigrated in the 1900s, and I think that’s a good thing just as much as I think this is a good thing.

  • boB from WA

    @bonus: to me the photos are reminiscent of those taken by young photographers employed by the US Govt in the 30s. I’m glad to see that they are not only archived for future generations (and for those teens 40 years later), but that we are able to enjoy the fruits of their talents now. Thanks for the post.