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Woodbury 'a real picture of cultural vibrancy'

The first marriage in Woodbury happened in the 1800s between a Scottish man and an Irish woman. It was the first sign of cultural diversity in the small town.

The mid to late 19th century is when the population started to pick up with Germans, Scottish, Scandinavians, Irish and more, said Woodbury housing specialist Karl Batalden, who studies the city's demographics.

Batalden gave a demographics presentation at last week's City Council meeting using census data that shows cultural diversity in the city has picked up dramatically in the past, especially in the last two decades.

In 1990, 95 percent of Woodbury residents identified themselves as white alone.

"Moving into 2000, that number had changed to 90 percent self-identifying as white alone," Batalden said. "So, sort of a doubling of the nonwhite population."

And most recently in 2010, the nonwhite population again doubled, with 81 percent identifying themselves as white alone and the rest as Asian, black or African American and for the first time, 3 percent identified as two or more races.

After many Europeans began immigrating to Woodbury in the mid to late 19th century, the population started to increase dramatically in the 21st century.

Those numbers grew from 3,000 in the 1960s to roughly 63,000 today and 84,000 projected by the Metropolitan Council in 2030, Batalden said.

"One of the trends that changed quite a bit is regarding racial identity," he said, adding, "The pie charts shows the progression of the city becoming more and more racially diverse to the point where that 81 percent number is roughly similar to the whole metro."

Additional numbers from the 2010 census measures folks of Hispanic origin separately, Batalden said, noting that 1.6 percent of the Woodbury population in 1990 was of Hispanic origin.

"This is also a story of increased diversity in Woodbury," he said.

In 2000, that number went up to 2.1 percent, according to the data. Then in 2010, the Hispanic population grew to 3.8 percent. It is estimated at 4.3 percent today.

Batalden compared local data to that of the state as a whole and the nation. He said although most people look at Minnesota and think of Norwegian and Swedish ancestry, it's actually "a real picture of cultural vibrancy."

Census data states that in 2010, 36 percent of Americans were identified as persons of color by the U.S. Census, while Minnesota had 17 percent. In the Twin Cities, the number was 24 percent.

"The take away from that is that we're more diverse in Woodbury than the state as a whole but a little less diverse than the Twin Cities and considerably less diverse than the country as a whole," Batalden said.

Other data he presented could play a role in policy decisions made by the City Council, especially the percentage of those older than 65.

For the first time in the state's history, the number of senior citizens is the same as the number of those ages 5 to 17, he said.

"We're still very much a young community, however, as we look at policy decisions we should be keeping in mind the fact that there are a number of residents who are older and that proportion is larger than it used to be," Batalden said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.