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Census: Nebraska's population growth slows to three-decade low
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Census: Nebraska's population growth slows to three-decade low

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Nebraska's population growth continued to slow this year, hitting a low not seen since the 1980s.

Census data released Tuesday shows the state had an estimated 1,937,552 people as of July 1, up about 5,000 from 2019.

The 2019 figure was actually revised down by more than 1,800 people, meaning the past year's growth was even more anemic.

In fact, it was Nebraska's lowest year-to-year growth both in pure numbers and percentage since 1989, said David Drozd, research coordinator at the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

This year's number continues a trend of slowing population growth over the past several years. Up until 2017, Nebraska added anywhere from about 10,000-14,000 people each year, but that number dropped to about 8,500 in 2018, 7,000 last year and 5,000 this year.

More Nebraskans

The numbers released Tuesday are a census estimate that's released annually in December — they are not the official 2020 census numbers, which likely won't be released until sometime next month at the earliest.

However, Drozd said the official 2020 census population for Nebraska is likely to be close to the estimate released Tuesday.

He said there are likely a couple of factors that account for the slowdown in the state's population growth.

One is a decrease in births as people have fewer children and wait longer to have them, and an increase in deaths as the Baby Boomer generation ages. Though births still outnumber deaths in Nebraska, that gap has continued to shrink, and it did so over the past year.

Another factor is migration, which is declining. Drozd said more people tend to move to Nebraska when the national unemployment rate is higher. Over the past year, the gap between the state and national unemployment rate was at its lowest level in years, which means fewer people moved here for job-related reasons.

Lincoln finishes No. 1 in census response

He noted that surrounding states such as Iowa, Kansas and Missouri saw growth rates that were lower than Nebraska's.

"Nebraska doesn't stand out" for its lack of growth, he said.

Actually, Nebraska did better than quite a few states. Drozd said 16 states had population declines, which is "quite a bit more than usual."

Based on the annual estimates, Nebraska remained as the 37th-largest state for the eighth straight year. It ranks just behind New Mexico and just ahead of Idaho.

Census figures point to two more metro legislative districts in Nebraska


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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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