LINCOLN, Neb. — Iowa and Nebraska continued their modest population growth this year at a rate slightly below the national average, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Wednesday.
Iowa had an estimated population of 3,145,711 as of July 1, for a net gain of nearly 15,000 compared to the same time last year, according to the data. The state grew at a rate of 0.47 percent.
Nebraska’s population rose to 1,920,076 during that time period, for a net increase of about 12,500 residents. That’s an increase of 0.65 percent. The state’s population has now increased for 30 consecutive years, following one decline during the 1987 farm crisis, said David Drozd, a research coordinator for the University of Nebraska’s Center for Public Affairs Research.
The United States’ population reached 325,719,178 during that period, up from 323,405,935. That’s an increase of 0.71 percent.
Drozd said Nebraska will probably be able to keep all three of its current U.S. House seats during the next Census in 2020, as long as the current local and national growth trends hold. Iowa lost one of its congressional seats after the 2010 census because the state didn’t grow fast enough.
“We have a lot of room to spare and not all that much time remaining in the decade for population trends to change,” Drozd said.
Drozd said the state also grew faster than its neighbors, including Iowa and Kansas. The state saw a net increase in migration, but only because of international immigration outpaced residents who left the state. Some of the outmigration is likely driven by major job losses at ConAgra, Cabela’s and the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant, Drozd said.
Iowa’s population growth is mostly driven by metropolitan areas in central and eastern Iowa, said Jeff Schott, director of the University of Iowa’s Institution of Public Affairs. The increasing Hispanic population is also a major factor.
Schott said the state’s population gains generally come from areas with new and expanding businesses and an adequate housing supply. Many smaller communities struggle to attract businesses because they don’t have one or the other, and the lack of jobs keeps them from growing.
“It’s really a chicken or the egg problem,” he said. “You’re trying to attract businesses to your town, and the businesses ask, ‘Well, where are your workers?'”
Idaho was the nation’s fastest-growing state, with a population increase of 2 percent, according to the census data. Nevada, Utah, Washington, Florida and Arizona were also among the biggest gainers.
Eight states lost population. Illinois experienced the largest loss in terms of numbers, while Wyoming saw the largest percentage decline. The other states to lose population were North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia.
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