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Last year, our annual Compass Points report showed more than half of our quality-of-life indicators trending in the wrong direction. In this year’s analysis, while some of those measures have started to turn around, we see a continuing story of Minnesota struggling to build back from the COVID-19 pandemic and its related disruptions.

The following is a summary of some of where this year’s indicators are pointed.

Schools and school-age children are struggling

Remote learning and other pandemic disruptions took a toll on student performance. Eighth grade math proficiency dropped dramatically during the pandemic and has not recovered. Although Minnesota has higher math proficiency rates than most other states, we also saw a steeper-than-average decline from 2019 to 2022.

Third grade reading proficiency saw a similar, though less steep, decline and has also failed to recover. On the positive side for education, on-time high school graduation has remained steady through 2022.

We also see fewer school-age children reporting that adults in their school and community care about them. This pattern is consistent with other results from the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey that indicate Minnesota youth are feeling more anxious and depressed, and less connected, than in the past.

Indicators for young children are also faring worse

The share of young children receiving early childhood screenings dropped sharply during the pandemic. Because early intervention is important for responding to childhood developmental delays, the impact of that drop might be felt in the education system in coming years. We have also seen an increase in babies born at low birth weight, likely partly driven by reduced prenatal care during the pandemic.

Our economy is strong, but not all families are feeling the effects

Minnesota’s economic productivity is rising, with higher GDP per capita (and overall) than before the pandemic. We have as many jobs as in 2019, although Baby Boomer retirements mean that we actually have slightly fewer working-age people to fill them. Our workforce participation rate remains one of the highest in the nation.

However, the topline economic strength is not being felt by all Minnesotans. High inflation has effectively led to a drop in median household income in the state over the past three years.

Poverty rates have remained flat, despite the growing economy. Rising housing costs are a particular source of strain, and we see an increasing share of Minnesota households paying an unaffordable amount for housing.

Health measures continue a longtime downward trend

Obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise, both in Minnesota and nationally. More than one in four Minnesotans report regularly experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms like uncontrollable worrying or feeling hopeless. On the positive side, health care coverage has remained steady in recent years.

Crime and traffic injuries tick back down but remain elevated

Violent crime rates rose sharply from 2019 to 2022. The violent crime rate ticked back down again in 2022 but has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. Property crime, on the other hand, has stayed flat following a decades-long decline.

Traffic safety has two levels to the story as well. Traffic-related injuries have been falling steadily for decades, but traffic fatalities rose during the pandemic and have remained elevated.

Minnesotans are educated and engaged

Minnesota continues to have a highly educated workforce, and our college and universities have high graduation rates. We are also one of the most civically engaged states in the country, with high shares of residents who vote, volunteer, help their neighbors, and attend arts and culture events.

Overall, the story of this year’s Compass Points seems to be one of Minnesota turning the corner post-pandemic, but still not fully recovered. Our economic successes are real, but so are our economic worries as stagnant wages fail to keep up with rising housing and living costs.

Minnesota Compass is just one set of indicators among the many stories we can tell about Minnesota’s quality of life, but we hope our dashboard can be a tool for community members and policymakers to measure our state’s progress and inspire our communities to action.

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