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Roots Beyond Race: Take a deep dive into all Minnesota's heritage groups

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More than 500 people from 75 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens.
More than 500 people from 75 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony last summer in St. Paul.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

You may not be surprised to hear that Minnesota has the largest Norwegian community in the country. But our state also leads the nation in the number of people who identify as Norwegian and black, or Norwegian and indigenous.

Those are some of the findings of a new APM Research Lab data project that aims to give Americans a more layered look at our complex cultural heritage — and to help people better understand themselves and their neighbors.

The Lab, a sister company to MPR News, says its study offers the most comprehensive portrait of Americans’ identities.

The project uses Census data, but goes much deeper than the typical handful of race groups used to describe people. Roots Beyond Race includes 198 heritage groups.

“I think it gives us a much more complex and rich [sense] of our state,” said Andi Egbert, a senior researcher for APM Research Lab. “And we think about ourselves differently and we give space to the varied histories that each of us contain.”

More See the APM Research Lab's entire Roots Beyond Race report

Here are five of Egbert’s main takeaways from her research that relate to Minnesota: 

  1. Minnesotans lead the nation in several heritage groups. A higher percentage of Minnesotans report they are Swedish (7.6 percent), Finnish (1.7 percent), Hmong (1.6 percent), Somali (1.3 percent), Liberian (0.3 percent), and Scandinavian, not otherwise specified (2.0 percent) than any other state. Our state also has the second highest percentage of Norwegian (13.9 percent) and Chippewa/Ojibwe tribe alone (0.7 percent) heritage, trailing only North Dakota for each. 

    For nearly all these heritage groups, Minnesota also boasts the largest number of people nationally, except for Hmong (where California exceeds Minnesota) and Finnish (where Michigan barely outnumbers Minnesota).

  2. Overall, more Minnesotans claim German heritage than any other group. Our state mirrors the United States, with German heritage also most common overall. But Minnesotans are nearly 2 1/2 times more likely to have German roots than all Americans (32.1% vs. 13.4%, respectively).

    A graphic shows Minnesota heritage groups
    Minnesota's top heritage groups. Click the image credit to explore all the lab's data visualizations.
    APM Research Lab
  3. When grouped by race (including multiracial people), the top three most common heritage groups in Minnesota are:

    • Asian/Pacific Islander: Hmong (88,000), Asian Indian (52,000), and Chinese (41,000)

    • Black: African American (204,000), Somali (73,000), and European, not otherwise specified (32,000)

    • Indigenous: Chippewa/Ojibwe tribe alone (40,000), German (11,000), and Mexican (11,000)

    • Latino: Mexican (207,000), Spanish (17,000), and Puerto Rican (16,000)

    • White: German (1.8 million), Norwegian (771,000), and Irish (566,000)

  4. Overall, about 3 percent of Minnesotans report being more than one race, but “multi-heritage” Minnesotans are common and sometimes surprising. These data provide a kaleidoscopic look at Minnesotan’s complex origins, seldom discussed or understood. For example:

    • Among Asian/Pacific Islander Minnesotans, about 11,000 claim German ties, 5,000 claim Norwegian heritage, and about 2,000 claim Irish or Dutch roots. 

    • Among black Minnesotans, about 17,000 also claim Mexican heritage; 10,000 claim German roots; and 6,000 claim Norwegian ties. 

    • Among Latino Minnesotans, about 12,000 report German ties, 7,000 have Irish roots, and 5,000 claim Norwegian heritage. 

    • Among White Minnesotans, about 125,000 claim Mexican roots, 44,000 claim any Native tribe heritage, and 31,000 report African American ties.

  5. What are some of the smallest heritage groups in Minnesota? Guyanese, Syrian, Latvian, and Hawaiian — about 2,000 Minnesotans report each of these backgrounds.

What do you wish other Minnesotans knew about your cultural identity?

Minnesota have the most people claiming Norwegian heritage, including the nation’s largest Indigenous-Norwegian and black-Norwegian populations. Do you claim mixed heritage? Share your story with us here.