Slow but steady: Nebraska population edges closer to 2 million mark

Slow but steady: Nebraska population edges closer to 2 million mark
The Nebraska State Capitol building’s Sower statue is framed by fall leaves in Lincoln. The state’s population edged up another 0.6 percent in 2018, to 1.93 million people enjoying The Good Life. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Nebraska’s population is continuing its slow but steady climb, as new population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the count has reached nearly 1.93 million people.

That’s an estimated 11,693 people higher than the 2017 figure. And it’s enough for a growth rate of less than 1 percent — six-tenths of 1 percent.

Those are relatively modest amounts. Nebraska ranked 29th among states in its total population growth between 2017 and 2018, and 20th in its growth rate.

The trends are good news for Nebraska politically as the country heads toward its next congressional reapportionment after the official 2020 census.

According to the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research, population trends among the states are in Nebraska’s favor in the reapportionment, and Nebraska is “almost certain” to keep its three congressional seats.

But there is a downside within the new numbers as Nebraska continues to lose its residents to other states. The Census Bureau estimates that the state lost 3,300 people overall when looking at who moved out compared with who moved in from around the U.S.

Over the past two years, Nebraska has lost some 6,850 people overall in that measure, according to the Center for Public Affairs Research.

David Drozd, research coordinator for the center, said those figures show some of the impact from losing the Conagra and Cabela’s headquarters, along with the closing of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant.

“People tend to go where the jobs are,” he said. “If you don’t have something available to you locally, you’re going to get to a place where you can find work.”

Even so, Drozd said, Nebraska’s numbers have held up well overall.

According to the Census Bureau, Nebraska’s growth is occurring largely from residents having children — births in the state outnumbered deaths by about 10,300.

Immigration is another factor in Nebraska’s growth. The state gained a net of 4,700 people as a result of international migration, but then lost those 3,300 people domestically.

Nebraska’s growth for the year is in line with what the state experienced between 2016 and 2017.

The figures for the past two years aren’t as high as Nebraska had seen earlier in the decade. But the Census Bureau estimates Nebraska has added at least 11,651 people every year since the official 2010 census count.

The last time Nebraska’s population dropped was in 1987 amid the farm crisis, the research center said. That means the state’s population has increased for 31 straight years.

Iowa’s population grew by 12,508 people, as the state reached a total of 3.16 million. That’s a growth rate of four-tenths of 1 percent.

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