Montana Population 2016

Montana is a vast area of open space, situated in the northwest portion of the United States. It may be the fourth biggest state in the country in terms of sheer size, but its population statistics are testament to the geography of Montana, most of which is not suitable for large development. As of 2016, the estimated population of Montana is 1.03 million.

There are only two states in the US that are more sparsely populated than the aptly nicknamed Big Sky Country -- Alaska and Wyoming. In terms of pure population numbers, the state surpassed the 1 million mark according to estimates from the US Census Bureau for 2016. The estimated 2016 population is 1,032,949, making Montana the 44th most populous state. The state has reflected a moderate growth rate of 0.79%, which ranks 26th in the nation.

The US Census of 2010 confirmed that 989,415 people were living in Montana, an increase of 9.7% from the findings of 2000. The Montana population surpassed 1 million for the first time in 2012, and it now stands at 1.03 million.

With a sprawling land mass of 145,552.43 square miles, there are only three bigger states in the US. However, for every square mile of land, there is an average of just 6.86 people (2.65 per square kilometer) and that makes Montana the 48th most densely populated area in the country. Mountain ranges, lakes and national parks all contribute to that figure in a huge area of outstanding natural beauty.

There are few large urban areas in the state of Montana. The largest city is Billings, home to 110,263 people in 2016. Other sizable cities are Missoula (pop: 71,022) and Great Falls (pop: 59,638). If you take a look at the interactive map at the top of the page, you will see that urban areas in Montana are actually growing quite rapidly, while more rural areas are gradually becoming less populated. This is a trend that is common among virtually all states in the country.

Montana Population History

The first census in Montana was held in 1870, just after Montana was formally made a US State Territory (previously it had been a part of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Dakota territories.) It recorded a population of 20,595. This was relatively small compared to other areas of the country, as the population explosion of the 1800s was slow to reach Montana.

However, increased migration helped to swell those numbers through the end of the 19th century. Just ten years later, in 1880, numbers of just over 20,000 had grown by just over 90% to 39,159 but the biggest spike in the history of Montana’s population was yet to come. The survey of 1890, held just after Montana became a full US state, showed an impressive increase of 265% that took the number of residents to 142,924.

Further increases followed but they began to slow down in the 1900s. In fact, the 1930 Census revealed a fall of just over 2% from the numbers declared ten years earlier. That ‘blip’ aside, steady growth dominated to the point where the population of Montana in 2016 has surpassed the 1 million mark.

Montana Demographics

The 2010 census also measured race and ethnicity, and the US Bureau has provided estimates annually between censuses. The last estimate taken in July 2015 showed that Montana has a much higher American Indian population than in many other states. The figures for Montana are:

  • White (89.2%)
  • Black/African American (0.6%)
  • American Indian (6.6%)
  • Asian (0.8%)
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (0.1%)
  • Two or more races (2.7%)

The 2010 census also measured ancestry. By far the largest ancestral group in Montana is German, claimed by 29.3% of the population. Other major ancestral groups are Irish (16.4%), English (13.1%) and Norwegian (10.0%).

94.8% of Montana's population speaks English, although there are many other languages spoken in the state, including Blackfoot, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Plains Cree, Crow, Dakota and Kutenai. This is because Montana has one of the highest Native American populations in the US, with about 66,000 people of Native American heritage. This is the result of many treaties and federal legislation, including one that recognizes the Little Shell Chippewa, a nation of "landless" people in Great Falls recognized by the state but not the federal government. About 63% of these people live off reservation -- mostly in cities -- with Great Falls having the largest concentration of urban Indians.

Montana Population Growth

Montana's population growth has mainly been concentrated in its seven largest counties, with the heaviest growth in Gallatin County, while the city of Kalispell has seen a growth of over 40% in the last decade. This is expected to continue, as Montana's rural areas will continue to lose people while the urban areas grow.

Montana has a moderate population growth of 0.79%, which is about middle-of-the-road in the United States. Forecasts show Montana's population will grow 14% over the next 30 years, reaching 1.16 million by 2030.

It's also estimated that by 2030, Montana will be one of ten states in the country to have more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18, and it will be one of only six states to have 25% of its population aged 65 and older, which could impact future growth.

Montana Population in 2016 Source: Sara goth

Montana Facts

  • Most of Montana was acquired by the US during the Lousiana Purchase of 1803.
  • Fort Benton was built in 1847 by the American Fur Company, and it is the oldest continuously-populated town in the state.
  • Thousands of people relocated near Grasshopper Creek following the discovery of gold in 1862.
  • The famous battle, Custer's Last Stand, took place in 1876 along the Little Bighorn River after the US Army came to move Native Americans to reservations.
  • Montana has approximately 100 different species of mammals -- more species than any other state in the US.
  • Montana has a total of 56 counties. Forty-six of these counties have 6 or fewer people per square mile, so they are designated as "frontier counties."
  • Montana is the only US state to share borders with three Canadian countries.

Population Data via US Census

Year Population % Change Rank
2020 1,081,434 0.90% 43
2019 1,071,737 0.91% 43
2018 1,062,040 0.92% 43
2017 1,052,343 0.93% 44
2016 1,042,646 0.94% 44
2015 1,032,949 0.95% 44
2014 1,023,252 0.87% 44
2013 1,014,402 0.92% 44
2012 1,005,157 0.74% 44
2011 997,746 0.84% 44
2010 989,415 0.93% 44
2000 902,195 1.22% 44
1990 799,065 0.16% 44
1980 786,690 1.26% 44
1970 694,409 0.29% 43
1960 674,767 1.33% 41
1950 591,024 0.55% 42
1940 559,456 0.40% 39
1930 537,606 -0.21% 39
1920 548,889 3.85% 39
1910 376,053 4.45% 40
1900 243,329 5.47% 42
1890 142,924 13.82% 44
1880 39,159 6.64% 44
1870 20,595 0.00% 42
Montana Population by Race
Race Population Percentage
White 891,529 90.11%
Black or African American 4,215 0.43%
American Indian and Alaska Native 63,495 6.42%
Asian 6,379 0.64%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 734 0.07%
Two or more races 23,063 2.33%
Languages Spoken in Montana
Language Population Percentage
Population 5 years and over 937,514 100.00%
Spanish 13,930 1.50%
German 7,120 0.80%
Crow 3,860 0.40%
French 2,305 0.20%
Cheyenne 1,120 0.10%
Blackfoot 1,075 0.10%
Chinese 775 0.10%
Norwegian 590 0.10%
Dutch 580 0.10%
Montana County Populations
County Population Rank
Yellowstone County 157,048 1
Missoula County 114,181 2
Gallatin County 100,739 3
Flathead County 96,165 4
Cascade County 82,278 5
Lewis and Clark County 66,418 6
Ravalli County 41,373 7
Silver Bow County 34,622 8
Lake County 29,457 9
Lincoln County 19,052 10
Hill County 16,572 11
Park County 15,972 12
Glacier County 13,647 13
Big Horn County 13,242 14
Custer County 12,135 15
Richland County 11,960 16
Jefferson County 11,645 17
Roosevelt County 11,476 18
Fergus County 11,427 19
Sanders County 11,336 20
Carbon County 10,408 21
Dawson County 9,625 22
Stillwater County 9,486 23
Rosebud County 9,398 24
Beaverhead County 9,300 25
Deer Lodge County 9,139 26
Madison County 7,915 27
Valley County 7,659 28
Powell County 6,840 29
Blaine County 6,577 30
Pondera County 6,184 31
Teton County 6,104 32
Chouteau County 5,767 33
Broadwater County 5,689 34
Toole County 5,087 35
Musselshell County 4,582 36
Mineral County 4,251 37
Phillips County 4,169 38
Sheridan County 3,687 39
Sweet Grass County 3,634 40
Granite County 3,240 41
Fallon County 3,190 42
Liberty County 2,408 43
Wheatland County 2,110 44
Judith Basin County 1,926 45
Meagher County 1,830 46
Powder River County 1,773 47
Daniels County 1,760 48
McCone County 1,683 49
Garfield County 1,314 50
Carter County 1,180 51
Prairie County 1,160 52
Wibaux County 1,130 53
Golden Valley County 827 54
Treasure County 697 55
Petroleum County 475 56