Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Geographic Information Science


Differences in percentage population change among North Dakota incorporated places of 250 to 2,500 inhabitants for the period 1920- 1970 were first explained statistically by means of spatial and economic variables. Additional insight concerning town population change was gained by a more detailed examination of selected towns, in which the number and type of business functions were stressed.

For each decade in the period 1920-1970, the relationship between percentage population change of towns with populations between 250 and 2,500 and four independent variables was measured by means of a stepwise multiple correlation and regression procedure. It was found that a positive relationship significant at the 5% level or better existed between population change of towns and distance to the nearest town of equal or larger population for the first four decades studied. Distance to the nearest urban center had a positive relationship to town population change in the 1920s and 1930s; a negative one in the 1950s and 1960s. Town population size was related to population change only during the two most recent decades. Change in value of farm land and buildings had a significant, positive relationship to population change during the 1920s and 1930s.

Additional variables tested included per capita retail sales tax receipts of towns, which were positively related to town population change in the 1950s and 1960s. Status as a county seat was determined by Chi-square tests to have been related to population gain during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Although many significant relation ships were found, the low degree of explanation provided by the variables (generally less than 20%) suggested that town population change is a complex phenomenon.

Case studies of four North Dakota, towns were made in which the varying economic bases of the towns were stressed. Two of the towns, Maddock and Hunter, were found to be farm trade centers whose businesses and ultimately population were based on providing goods and services to the surrounding farm population. Beulah was shown to depend both on agriculture and on mining. Marmarth, a former railroad division point in an area with sparse farm population, lost most of its inhabitants because it had no economic base to replace the railroad.