New census data: Minnesota Somali population grows

  • Article by: CHRIS WILLIAMS , Associated Press
  • Updated: October 27, 2011 - 5:10 PM
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(left to right) Shukri Awale, Ayan Dhore, Nimo Guled and Halimo Guled all from Mogadishu, Somalia cheer and sing along to Somalian music. Hundreds from the Minneapolis Somalian community gathered on Lake Street on Saturday to celebrate Somali Independence Day which is on July 1.

Photo: Brendan Sullivan, Special To The Star Tribune

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MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota's Somali population is still the largest in the United States, according to new census data released early Thursday that raised the number of people of Somali ancestry in the state to more than 32,000.

The new estimate is based on American Community Surveys taken by the bureau from 2008-2010 and updates last year's estimate of nearly 27,000 Somalis in the state. Because the estimates are derived from surveys, they include a margin of error, which means the census calculates the population could be as high as 36,000 or as low as 29,000.

"The (Somali) community has long felt it is a bit larger than the Census Bureau estimate, but this number doesn't feel uncomfortable to me," State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said.

The estimate includes both people born in Somalia and their descendants. Other states that have large Somali populations include Ohio with 12,300, Washington with 9,300 and California with 7,500, according to the latest estimates.

The Somali immigration to Minnesota has been the largest part of a broader influx of people from sub-Saharan Africa in recent years in the state. That broader group now numbers more than 100,000 in the state, according to the new estimates, and promises to keep growing as young couples marry and have children.

Like most immigrant groups, Somalis in Minnesota are younger than the general population with a median age of about 25 years. About half of the Somali population is 24 years old or younger. The median age of the state's general population is more than a decade older at 37 years, and only about a third of the population is 24 years old or younger.

Members of Minnesota's Somali community have been in the news amid long-running federal investigations into recruiting and financing of people from the U.S. to train or fight for al-Shabab in Somalia. U.S. government officials consider the group to be a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaida.

Two women, both U.S. citizens of Somali descent, were convicted last week of conspiring to funnel money to al-Shabab. They were among 20 people charged in the Minnesota investigations.

Unlike some other populations in Minnesota, including the Hmong, those of Somali descent are not asked about their ancestry during the census. So the survey data represents the Census Bureau's best estimate of the population.

The data released early Thursday also includes snapshots into more than 40 topics. For instance, the state's overall median household income is about $56,500, but there were wide differences in income from race to race.

Asian households had the highest median income at about $61,000 followed by white households at $58,500. Black households reported the lowest median incomes at $27,500.

Gillaspy said the data was not surprising since the household incomes of Asian families have been increasing in recent years.

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