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.
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.
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 city 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.
The two most populated counties in the state are Minnehaha and Pennington with respective populations of 188,616 and 110,141.
The median age across the population of South Dakota is approximately 36.8 years of age. In terms of the ratio of females to males in the population of the state, the divide sits at 49.7% female while males make up the remaining 50.3%.
In terms of religious preferences among the residents of South Dakota, the numbers are currently at 79% Christian based faith affiliations, 3% non-Christian based faith affiliations, and 18% of residents unaffiliated with any religion.
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 River became 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.
According to the most recent ACS, the racial composition of South Dakota was:
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 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.
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%.
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.
Two or more races
Black or African American
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Average Family Size
Average Household Size
Rate of Home Ownership
Less Than 9th Grade
9th to 12th Grade
High School Graduate
High School Graduation Rate
The highest rate of high school graduation is among white people with a rate of 81.59%.
The highest rate of bachelors degrees is among asian people with a rate of 37.67%.
Other Indo-European Languages
Asian and Pacific Island Languages
93.62% of South Dakota residents speak only English, while 6.38% speak other languages. The non-English language spoken by the largest group is Spanish, which is spoken by 2.16% of the population.
Overall Poverty Rate
Male Poverty Rate
Female Poverty Rate
The race most likely to be in poverty in South Dakota is Native, with 49.12% below the poverty level.
The race least likely to be in poverty in South Dakota is White, with 8.18% below the poverty level.
The poverty rate among those that worked full-time for the past 12 months was 2.28%. Among those working part-time, it was 17.46%, and for those that did not work, the poverty rate was 22.5%.
Overall Marriage Rate
Male Marriage Rate
Female Marriage Rate
The age group where males are most likely to be married is Over 65, while the female age group most likely to be married is 55-64.
Second Gulf War
First Gulf War
World War II
Less Than 9th Grade
High School Graduate
Bachelors or Greater
Veteran Poverty Rate
Veteran Disability Rate
Labor Force Participation
Non citizens include legal permanent residents (green card holders), international students, temporary workers, humanitarian migrants, and illegal immigrants.
Born in South Dakota
99.4% of South Dakota residents were born in the United States, with 65.64% having been born in South Dakota. 2.33% of residents are not US citizens. Of those not born in the United States, the largest percentage are from Asia.