South Dakota Population 2018


Situated in the northern midwest, the US state of South Dakota is the 17th largest in the Union but has a relatively sparse population by comparison. Like its near neighbor North Dakota, the state's geographical features do not lend themselves to mass urban settlements, and a lack of choice when it comes to employment has seen an exodus to other parts of the country. In 2018, the estimated population of South Dakota is 877,790.

The current population of South Dakota is estimated at 858,469, which shows an increase from the 2010 Census. The state currently enjoys a growth rate of 1.17%, which ranks 11th in the country.

The last national census in the United States took place in 2010, and it was confirmed at the time that the population of South Dakota was 814,180, which represented a rise of nearly 8% on the numbers declared in 2000. An estimate of the state's population from July 2015 places it at 858,469, which makes South Dakota the 46th most populous state in the US.

Not only is South Dakota the 46th largest state in the US in terms of numbers, it also shares that rank with regards to population density. The state is a vast area, covering 77,116 square miles, which makes it the 17th largest state in the country by area, but for each of those square miles, there is an average of just 10.7 people. It's the 46th most densely populated state in the US.

Like other Great Plains states, South Dakota has seen a dropping population in its rural areas for many decades in a phenomenon known as "rural flight." Between 1990 and 2000, 9 counties in the state saw a population drop greater than 10%, with one county losing 19% of its population in just a decade.

Despite this, many areas of South Dakota are seeing increases in population. The Sioux Falls area, large counties along Interstate 29, the Black Hills area and many Indian reservations have enjoyed growing populations. Lincoln County in particular is notable as the 9th fastest growing county (in terms of percentage) in the country.

South Dakota Population History

Most of present-day North and South Dakota was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, and was included in Louisiana (soon renamed Missouri) Territory. The part generally west of the Missouri River remained in Missouri Territory until becoming part of Nebraska Territory, formed in 1854. The portion east of the Missouri because successively part of Michigan Territory (1834), Wisconsin Territory (1836), Iowa Territory (1838), and Minnesota Territory (1849). After Minnesota became a State in 1858, this area remained unorganized until Dakota Territory was established in 1861, including all of the present-day Dakotas as well as most of Montana and the northern half of Wyoming. After 1868 Dakota Territory corresponded to the present two States, plus an area transferred to Nebraska in 1882. South Dakota (like North Dakota) was admitted as a State on November 2, 1889 with essentially its present boundaries.

Present-day South Dakota had no census coverage in 1850. The population given for 1860 is for the whole of Dakota Territory as organized in 1861, essentially comprising present-day South and North Dakota east of the Missouri River; no determination has been made to assign the 1860 total to what became the two separate States. In 1860, some forts and settlements in the present State also were enumerated in Nebraska Territory. The 1870 and 1880 populations consist of the totals of those counties of Dakota Territory located wholly or primarily in what is now South Dakota, plus (in 1870) an estimated portion of the Territory's unorganized part. The total population of Dakota Territory was 14,181 in 1870 and 135,177 in 1880. Considerable portions of the State were not covered by the census until 1900.

South Dakota Population Chart

South Dakota Population History

The first recorded population figures date from 1860 when it was reported that 4,837 South Dakotans were already living in the area. Ten years later those numbers had jumped to 11,776, but the biggest spike in South Dakota population history was to follow as a leap of over 700% took those numbers to 98,268.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the population of South Dakota had reached 401,570, and while the overall picture throughout the 1900s was one of growth, there have been censuses where numbers fell on a decade by decade basis.

The blame for this was put firmly on a phenomenon called rural flight which saw a ‘brain drain’ of sorts, particularly among University graduates who sought a future away from the unpredictable life of subsistence farming.

South Dakota Population Growth

South Dakota is enjoying steady growth that is expected to continue, and it is actually growing faster than the country for the first time in more than 50 years. It's believed this growth is due to more working-age adults, as well as the high birth rate that exceeds the national average, a low death rate and migration to the area as manufacturing jobs have increased 458% from 1970 to 2000, while retail grew 79% and finance jobs 137%.

In recent years, the population of South Dakota has returned to healthy growth, and from 1980 onwards, there has been an increase in numbers. Could the most recent increases be due to the growth of the internet, the rise in remote working and therefore a reduction in the need to leave the state to seek work elsewhere?

Whatever the reasons may be, with growth levels around 8% between Censuses at present, the population of South Dakota should be on its way to the next milestone in 2020.

Population Data via US Census

South Dakota Growth Rate

South Dakota Population Rank

Year Pop % Change

South Dakota Facts

South Dakota Population in 2018Source: Jon Platek

##South Dakota Facts

  • Arikara, Sioux and Cheyenne Indian tribes lived in the area until the 1700s, when the Sioux forced all other tribes off of the land.
  • Today, the Sioux Nation's Dakota, Lakota and Nakota tribes still reside in South Dakota.
  • The state has one of the largest populations of Native Americans. Approximately 60,000 people from nine official tribes reside within South Dakota.
  • Fort Pierre was the first permanent settlement in the state. It was established in 1817.
  • However, real population growth did not begin until gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874.
  • Wall Drug Store in the town of Wall is the biggest drugstore in the world.

South Dakota Population Density by County

Minnehaha County

  • Population186,051
  • Density230.50 per sq km
  • Growth Since 20109.46%
  • State Rank1
  • % of State21.60%

South Dakota Population Growth Rate by County

The counties located within the state of South Dakota have seen both increases and decreases in population since the last US Census was taken in 2010 compared to estimates taken by the Census Bureau in 2015. There were five counties that had population growths exceeding 5%, while two of these counties had population growth of over 10%. The highest growth was posted in Lincoln at 16.98%, followed by Lake County at 11.88%. The remaining counties that had increases of more than 5% are Minnehaha, Jackson, and Buffalo. Other counties such as Dewey, Meade, and Pennington reflected smaller increases during the 5-year period.

Some counties in South Dakota had decreasing populations between 2010 and 2015. The highest loss occurred in Jones County, with an 8.06% loss. Campbell County and Miner County each saw decreases in population that exceeded 5%, while counties such as Day, Grant, Tripp, and Fall River posted smaller losses in population.

South Dakota Population Pyramid 2018

0k1k2k3k4k5k6k7kSouth Dakota Male Population0k1k2k3k4k5k6k7kSouth Dakota Female Population80757065605550454035302520151050

To compare South Dakota to other states, click here.

Population by Race

Race Population
American Indian and Alaska Native77,378
Two or More Races21,548
Black or African American14,524
Some Other Race5,894
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander218

The largest ancestry groups include: German (40.7%), Norwegian (15.3%), Irish (10.4%), Native American (8.3%) and English (7.1). South Dakota has the US' largest population of Hutterites, an Anabaptist group who came to the country from Europe in 1874.

American Indians, particularly Nakota (Sioux), Lakota and Dakota, are very predominant in many areas of the state, making up 20% of the population of West River. South Dakota currently has the third highest percentage of Native Americans of any state, with 5 counties remaining wholly within Indian reservations.

In terms of other ethnic groups, South Dakota is ranked 45th in terms of its Asian American population, percentage-wise. In terms of total numbers of Asians, the state ranks 48th out of 50 states. South Dakota also ranks 45th out of 50 in terms of its African American population.

It's also worth noting that rural counties in the state are seeing a median age that continues to increase due to low birth rates and a lack of immigration. In 24 counties, 1 out of every 5 people is over the age of 65, compared to the national average of 12%.

Race Data via US Census (2016 ACS 1-Year Survey)

Languages Spoken in South Dakota

Language Population Percentage

This chart shows the top 10 languages that are spoken at home in South Dakota. The data comes from the most recent release of the American Community Survey (ACS).

South Dakota Economy

High school graduate or higher 90.7%
Bachelor's degree or higher 26.7%
With a Disability 8.1%
Persons Without Health Insurance 11.4%
In Civilian Labor Force 68.6%
In Civilian Labor Force (Female) 64.8%
Food Services Sales $1,873,699
Health Care Revenue $6,211,731,000
Manufacturers Shipments $16,882,647,000
Merchant Wholesaler Sales $20,411,059,000
Total Retail Sales $13,791,827,000
Total Retail Sales per Capita $16,550
Mean Travel Time to Work 16.9 minutes
Median Household Income $50,338
Per Capita Income (past 12 months) $26,311
Persons in Poverty 14.2%

This chart shows the employment and labor force participation rates in South Dakota for residents over 16 years of age. The 2015 unemployment rate is 3.1% and the labor force participation rate is 69%.

South Dakota Business

Total Nonemployer Establishments 63,384
All firms 81,314
Men-owned Firms 42,418
Women-owned Firms 23,722
Minority-owned Firms 4,101
Nonminority-owned Firms 74,228
Veternan-owned Firms 8,604
Nonveteran-owned Firms 66,219

South Dakota Housing

Housing Units 363,438
Owner Occupied Housing Rate 68%
Median Value Owner Occupied Housing Units $135,700
Median Monthly Owner Costs (w/Mortgage) $1,210
Median Monthly Owner Costs (no mortgage) $425
Median Gross Rent $648
Building Permits 4,482
Households 327,101
Persons per Household 2.45 persons
Living in Same House 1 Year Ago 83.7%
Language Other than English Spoken at Home 6.7%
Data Sources
  1. SDSU Census Data Center
  2. US Census State Population Estimates - Most recent state estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program
  3. US Census County Population Estimates - Most recent county estimates from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program
  4. American Community Survey (2009 - 2013)
  5. Census QuickFacts
  6. Historical Populations of States and Counties (1790 - 1990)