Cook County’s population in the 2010 U.S. Census was 5,176, up just 8 people from the 2000 Census figure of 5,168. However, the percentage of the population aged 65 years or over increased from 17.4 percent in 2000 to 20.3 percent in 2010, suggesting that Cook County is slowly losing young people and gaining older people. By way of comparison, the percentage of people 65 years and over for all of Minnesota in 2010 was 12.9 percent. Median age for Cook County residents increased from 44 in 2000 to 49.8 in 2010.
The density of the Cook County population was 3.6 persons per square mile in 2010, compared with 66.6 persons per square mile for Minnesota. However, those figures are misleading: More than 90 percent of Cook County is vacant land owned by the federal and state governments, most of it in forests, wilderness and natural areas. Almost all of the county population is found on the remaining 8-9 percent of the county land area. Most of the population is found in a narrow band along the shore of Lake Superior, in Grand Marais, Grand Portage, Tofte, Lutsen and Schroeder, and along the Gunflint Trail
Of the 5,397 Cook County housing units counted in the 2010 Census, 2,607 were occupied and 2,790 were vacant, reflecting the many seasonal/vacation homes maintained in Cook County. Of the 2,607 occupied housing units, 1,911 were owner occupied and 696 were renter occupied. Relatively few rental housing units are available in Cook County. The rental vacancy rate in the 2010 Census was 4.3 percent. The 2010 Census reported 7.6 percent of the Cook County housing units “in multi-unit structures” compared with 21.5 percent for Minnesota as a whole. Median value of owner-occupied housing units was $247,100 for 2006-2010. Median rent was $582.
Cook County tends to be a well-educated place. The 2010 Census reported that 32.9 percent of county residents held a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 31.4 percent for Minnesota. Partly that may reflect the attraction of Cook County as a place to retire or semi-retire.
Median household income for Cook County in 2010 was $49,162, compared to $57,243 for Minnesota. Persons below the official poverty line in 2010 totaled 8.9 percent, compared with 10.6 percent for Minnesota. Cook County is a place of generally modest means but relatively little poverty. Two races dominate the county: 87.5 percent classify themselves as “white,” and 8.6 percent as “American Indian or Alaska Native,” with very small numbers for various other classifications.
Retail sales and accommodations and food service sales dominate the Cook County economy. Like other areas of the United States, construction trades were hard hit by the 2007-2010 recession. In 2010, just 37 building permits were issued.