Home Part of States Newsroom
News
The Topline: Minnesota book bans, and other data news

Share

The Topline: Minnesota book bans, and other data news

Mar 25, 2024 | 10:44 am ET
By Christopher Ingraham
Share
The Topline: Minnesota book bans, and other data news
Description
During the 2022–23 school year, book bans occurred in 153 districts across 33 states, according to a PEN America report. (Getty Images)

Welcome to The Topline, a weekly roundup of the big numbers driving the Minnesota news cycle, as well as the smaller ones that you might have missed. This week: book ban bans; COVID-19 shots; hot air balloon mortality; homelessness; and Minneapolis’ school-age population.

Book bans prompt a book ban ban

MPR News reports on a Gov. Tim Walz-supported bill (SF3567/HF3782) that would effectively ban local book bans in public libraries, including those in public schools.

The issue is a timely one: The American Library Association tracked more than 900 demands to censor reading material in public U.S. libraries in 2023. The ban attempts covered more than 4,000 individual titles.

The organization is aware of 22 such attempts covering 45 books in Minnesota, similar to the numbers from 2022. Minnesota librarians say they’ve noticed an increase in recent years, typically targeting books containing LGBTQ or Black characters.

“Those who have asked for book bans have never been on the right side of history, they have never been viewed as being the folks that were the heroes of freedom, they have never been viewed as the people that were looking out for others,” Walz said at a recent event in support of the bill at Como Park Senior High School.

Seniors take note: time for another COVID-19 shot!

Last month the CDC released updated guidance recommending seniors get an additional dose of this year’s COVID-19 vaccine. As of right now just 1% of Minnesota’s seniors have done so, according to state Department of Health data, suggesting many may have missed the message.

Prior to the updated guidance, nearly 60% of seniors were up-to-date on their shots. “Most COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations last year were among people 65 years and older,” said CDC physician Mandy Cohen, in a statement. “An additional vaccine dose can provide added protection that may have decreased over time for those at highest risk.”

Minnesotans crash hot air balloon into power lines, walk away with only minor injuries

Last week a hot air balloon crashed into power lines outside Rochester, destroying the balloon, sparking a brush fire, and generating international headlines. Miraculously, the three people riding the balloon walked away from the accident with only minor injuries. 

It got us wondering: how often do people die in hot air balloon crashes? We actually have data on this, thanks to the CDC’s WONDER mortality database. From 1999 through 2020 there were 34 hot air balloon deaths in the United States. For comparison’s sake there were 98 deaths involving hang gliders and more than 400 involving parachutes during that time.

Additional data on the balloon deaths is sparse because of privacy considerations for those involved. A 2013 study published in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine found that most hot air balloon crashes happened during landing, and that all fatal crashes involved collision with a fixed object. 

Homelessness down in Minnesota

A periodic study of homelessness found that it’s declined slightly in the state since 2018, the last time it was conducted. The reasons for this aren’t clear, MPR News reports, and the effect of the pandemic isn’t known as there was no data collection at the height of it.

The data comes from a single night of interviews with thousands of people experiencing homelessness, which took place last October. Relative to 2018 there were fewer homeless children under age 18, and fewer young adults under 24 living on the streets alone. The number of adults age 55+ increased modestly, however.

One third of the homeless across the state were not living in a formal shelter. That was especially true on Native American reservations participating in the study, where 95% of the homeless were not in a shelter.

The school-aged population in Minneapolis

Last week we reported on the Minneapolis school district’s large budget shortfall and the demographic trends underlying it. One of the findings was that while the overall Minneapolis population increased by 20% since 1998, enrollment in the schools fell by more than 40% over the same period.

One perceptive reader asked: Wouldn’t it be more useful to see the change in the school-age population? That would help us understand whether the enrollment drop owes more to Minneapolis families choosing to send their kids elsewhere, or moving out of the city entirely.

The data on this isn’t as readily available, but this is what we were able to cobble together quickly: From 2017 to 2022, the under-18 population in Minneapolis fell by 7%. Over the same period, school enrollment fell by 20%.

Those numbers underscore that the district’s enrollment issues are an all-of-the-above problem. Fewer children are living in the city, and those who remain are now more likely to go to school elsewhere.

Related News