Nebraska matches U.S. growth rate for 1st time in 100+ years

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Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 6:08 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s population grew at the same rate as the rest of the nation for the first time in at least 120 years, breaking the cycle in which the state consistently trailed the United States average.

New U.S. Census numbers show Nebraska’s population increased 7.4% between 2010 and 2020, matching the national growth rate in the same period. The state had grown at a slower pace every decade since at least 1900.

David Drozd of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research says he had expected Nebraska’s growth to slightly lag the national growth rate. Although a lot could change over the next decade, Drozd says Nebraska’s growth leaves it well-positioned to maintain its three U.S. House seats beyond 2030.

“We’re in better shape,” he said.

Nebraska’s population totaled 1,961,504 as of 2020, according to the census numbers. It’s now the 37th largest state in the nation, passing West Virginia since 2010. The state also grew at a faster rate than its neighbors except for South Dakota, whose population increased by 8.9%, and Colorado, which surged by 14.8%.

But the growth was small in terms of actual numbers. Nebraska saw a net increase of 135,163 residents over the decade, a number dwarfed by bigger states such as Texas, which added nearly 4 million residents, and Florida, which grew its population by 2.7 million. Nebraska grew at a faster rate than California, which increased by 6.1%, but California’s percentage increase translates to an additional 2.3 million people.

Drozd said Nebraska’s growth was driven by a combination of in-state births outpacing deaths and net in-migration to the state.

The census data released Monday didn’t include community-specific numbers or demographic data, but Drozd said Nebraska’s growth is driven by population gains in its big and mid-sized cities while rural areas mostly hold steady or decline.

Meanwhile, Iowa continued to see slow population growth in 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data released Monday with the state population growing 4.7% in the last decade to 3.19 million people.

While the state held on to all four congressional districts, the muted population trend could mean the loss of one of those U.S. House seats in the future. The latest figures in Iowa reflect a century of typically slow growth, and later data likely will show a shift from rural areas to the state’s largest cities has continued.

The Census data enables states to determine the number of congressional seats they’ll have for the next decade but officials will need to wait for more detailed data to redraw congressional and legislative boundaries.

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