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Population estimates can create more questions than answers

By Staff | Jul 9, 2010

Population estimates are just that – estimates – but sometimes they create quite a stir.

That was evident again recently when the latest North Dakota Census estimates were reported.

Estimates put Rugby’s 2009 population at 2,510 – a drop of 49 from the previous year and it also was the ninth year in a row population has declined. Local officials haven’t put too much stock in those annual figures, however.

While no one can argue there has been outmigration in the past nine years, there have also been families moving into town. School enrollment figures reflect a student population that has been holding steady for a few years and the number of births in the city appears to be up from previous years.

The last official estimate revealed the city’s population at 2,939. Has the town lost over 400 people in a decade?

Probably not, and the truth will come out when the official census will be announced early next year. It’s likely the city’s population did drop, but not 15 percent.

An interesting debate has surfaced in the western region of the state. The oil boom has brought an influx of residents to the Williston region, and while estimates are showing some population increase to some towns in that region. The population hike is not high enough, some city officials contend.

In fact, some believe the town’s population is 20 to 50 percent more than the latest estimates.

The problem is the methodology used in the determining annual population estimates is based on just a few factors – including birth/death records.

Getting a more firm population count takes more time, resources and money. And it’s just not practical every year and that’s why an organized census is done just once a decade.

Population figures are important because they indicate whether a town is growing or dying and everyone wants to be part of a progressive community.

However, these estimates have to be looked at with a skeptical eye. For at least one more year.

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