State of the Valley: Report describes Lower St. Croix community health

Compilation of data shows strengths and challenges in the region defined by the river, and provides comparisons of its six counties.




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Selected data, courtesy State of the Valley

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls and partners have updated their data about the well-being of people who live in six counties along the St. Croix River in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

The State of the Valley website offers insights into challenges and opportunities facing the region and its nearly 500,000 residents.

Measurements include demographics, the economy, education, health, housing, food and poverty, transportation, community engagement, and youth.

“While the St. Croix River delineates the state border between Minnesota and Wisconsin in this region, it is also the unifying feature for these [six] counties,” the report states.

The data also dives into similarities and differences between the counties.

“Despite the many factors shaping the regional identity of the St. Croix River Valley, the data presented in this website also show significant variation in terms of socio-economic well-being,” the report reads.

A summary of the St. Croix Valley and each of the counties in the study is available at

Highlights from the summary:


  • Relative to the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the populations in four of the six counties in the St. Croix Valley are growing more rapidly. The exceptions are Burnett and Polk Counties.
  • The Minnesota and Wisconsin counties in the St. Croix Valley have even less ethnic diversity than the states in which they are located.


  • The economies of counties in the St. Croix Valley were adversely affected by the “Great Recession.”
  • Unemployment in the region has declined after peaking in 2009 and tends to be lower than the national average.
  • Counties (Chisago and Polk) further from the Twin Cities experienced a sharper economic downturn than those closer to the metro area.


  • By most educational attainment measures, the counties in the St. Croix Valley exceed those of the state in which they are located.
  • These counties have lower percentages of their populations who have limited literacy (with the exception of Burnett and Polk Counties), the reading proficiency of their elementary students are higher (except in Burnett), and more of their students complete high school (except in Chisago and Burnett).


  • The Minnesota and Wisconsin counties in the St. Croix Valley form a relatively prosperous part of these states. For most indicators of poverty included in this section of the website, with the exception of Burnett County, the St. Croix Valley Counties have somewhat lower percentages of poverty than their respective states.
  • More than 32,000 individual residents of these counties lived below the poverty level in 2015, including over 9,000 children under the age of 18.

Food insecurity

  • The incidence of food insecurity in the relatively prosperous counties in the St. Croix Valley is generally lower than in their respective states. Burnett stands out as the exception.
  • Consistent with national and state trends, eligibility for free or reduced price school lunches and participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) have increased in all counties in the St. Croix Valley. With the exception of Burnett County, rates remain lower than their respective state averages.


  • All but Polk and Burnett Counties have lower percentages of their populations who
    have no health insurance than is true for their respective states.
  • All but Burnett and St. Croix Counties have slightly higher rates of adult obesity than their respective states.


  • Home ownership tends to be higher in these counties than in their respective states.
  • At least 30% of renters and homeowners in four of the these six counties area are classified as “cost‐burdened.”


  • About one in eight senior households in Minnesota (13%) and Wisconsin (12%)
    do not have a vehicle.

Community engagement

  • Residents of the St. Croix Valley tend to vote at similar or slightly higher percentages than do citizens in their respective states.
  • Factors that may inhibit community engagement include lack of English language skills (all six counties have lower percentages of non‐English‐speaking households than their state averages) and recently moving into a county.


  • With the exception of Burnett County, teen pregnancy rates in St. Croix Valley counties are below their respective state averages and have decreased since 2006.

State of the Valley is a collaborative effort, with research done at UWRF and sponsored by the Hugh J. Andersen Foundation, Andersen Corporate Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation, Bremer Bank, St. Croix Valley Foundation, United Way St. Croix Valley and United Way of Washington County – East.


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State of the Valley: Report describes Lower St. Croix community health