FALL RIVER DREAMIN’: A three-part series exploring Fall River’s population influx as told by new residents and local experts.

Part 3: Despite assumed growth, Census data shows Fall River losing population since 2010


However, numbers may be skewed due to data taken during pandemic

By Marcus Heerdt

HOT SPRINGS – South Dakota is experiencing an influx of new residents, especially since the onset of the coronavirus.

The United States Census Bureau recently released a portion of the 2020 Census results.

Since the previous census in 2010, the state of South Dakota gained 72,487 new residents and has a total population of 814,180, which represents an 8.9% growth rate over the decade.

This makes South Dakota the 46th populous state out of 50, ahead of only North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Part 1 of this series featured new residents to the area who have chosen to make Fall River their home simply because they love it here.

In Part 2, realtors based in Fall River explained that they saw a lot of people moving into the area in the past couple of years, especially since the beginning of COVID.

“We started to see more inquiries in March [2020],” said Jim Bultsma, owner and broker of Heartland Real Estate. “There was some initial activity then however the increase in actual sales began in June and has kept pace since then.”

“I couldn’t believe how many people started calling from out of town to find a place to live in Hot Springs,” said Cathy Sotherland, owner and broker of the Real Estate Group.

However, the new Census data shows Fall River County, Hot Springs, Edgemont, and Oelrichs all losing population since 2010.

According to the Census Bureau, Fall River County had a population of 7,094 in 2010 and 6,973 in 2020, a loss of 1.7%.

The new figures also show the following race/ethnicity statistics for the county in 2020, followed by the previous 2010 percentages in parentheses:

• 85.9 % White (88.6%)

• 0.5% Black (0.7%)

• 6.0% American Indian (7.1%)

• 0.7% Asian (0.4%)

• 0.2% Pacific Islander (0.0%)

• 0.8% Other (0.3%)

• 5.9% Two or More (2.9%)

• 2.6% Hispanic or Latino (2.2%)

South Dakota has 66 counties, and Fall River was one of 33 to lose population since 2010, which reflects a larger trend of rural areas losing residents while cities continue to gain.

According to the Census data, more than a third of the state’s population lives in Minnehaha, Lincoln (both Sioux Falls), and Pennington (Rapid City).

As for the city of Hot Springs, the Census Bureau reports that the 2020 population is 3,395, down from 3,711 in 2010 (a total loss of 316 residents).

This is nothing new for the city.

Since 1960, only one decennial census reported a population gain within the city limits:

• 1960 Census: 4,943 (-1.7%)

• 1970 Census: 4,432 (-10.3%)

• 1980 Census: 4,742 (+6.9%)

• 1990 Census: 4,325 (-8.8%)

• 2000 Census: 4,129 (-4.5%)

• 2010 Census: 3,711 (-10.1%)

• 2020 Census: 3,395 (-8.5%)

Other population centers in the county also show a loss of residents with Edgemont’s 2020 population at 725 (down from 774 in 2010) and Oelrichs’ 2020 population at 117 (down from 126 in 2010).

According to the Census Bureau, it is likely that many new residents to the state remained out of the official 2020 Census results due to the census being conducted in April of 2020, about a month or two into the coronavirus pandemic, subsequent lockdowns, and other health and safety measures enforced in different states.

“Each household is counted where they are April 1,” said Dr. Weiwei Zhang of the Census Data Center at South Dakota State University. “If they move after April 1, they are still counted where they were living April 1. So, if the area had a ‘huge influx of new residents after that date,’ those new residents were likely to be counted as residents of the places where they were living April 1.”

There are potential consequences for uncounted residents.

According to the Census Bureau, the “results of the census help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding, including grants and support to states, counties and communities are spent every year for the decade. The results also inform how federal funding is allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grant programs for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.”

However, Dr. Zhang points out that the Census Bureau “does have another program called the annual population estimate program that utilizes vital statistics and other administrative data (such as IRS) yearly to update the population estimates for states and counties.”

Census results aside, there are many new faces in Fall River, and Olivia Mears, executive director of the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, is excited by all of the interest in the area.

“It’s great seeing all the renewed interest in Hot Springs because with new people comes new businesses and opportunities, and we look forward to continued growth and success in this wonderful town of ours,” Mears said. “Not everyone who moves here has interacted with the Chamber prior to their relocation, so we want new residents to know that we are a community resource and look forward to meeting them. We welcome all Hot Springs residents to contact the Chamber for help with local information.”

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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