Talk about Nebraska population change and one thing over the past two decades has been constant.
Rural areas are getting more rural and the state’s population areas, including Norfolk, are growing.
David Drozd, research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska, said Nebraska’s nonmetro population is actually smaller today than during the frontier days in 1890.
That’s especially significant when considering the availability of water then, he said.
Drozd, who was the speaker during the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce’s Unlimited Potential luncheon series on Thursday, said population shifts have profound effects on the state, including votes in the Nebraska Legislature.
Another consideration is the three congressional seats, which have been under threat to be reduced to two. While Nebraska’s population has been growing, it’s growth rate has been slower than the U.S. growth rate over most decades since the 1900s.
In recent decades, it has been trending closer to the U.S. population growth rate, which makes it more likely Nebraska will keep its three seats, Drozd said.
One thing not all Nebraskans understand is that if Nebraska loses a congressional seat, it won’t just lose the Third District. It means Nebraska would have only two representatives, and the districts would be redrawn into two.
More importantly, Drozd said, it would mean that Nebraska’s lost seat would likely go to California or Florida or a coastal state with different interests.
Nebraska’s population has become more racially mixed. In 1990, only 7.5 percent of the population was minorities, defined as non-whites.
By 2000, minorities constituted 12.7 percent of the population and are currently 20.4 percent, or about one in five Nebraskans, Drozd said.
Nebraska’s “big three” counties are Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy and have grown about 9 percent to 10 percent the past two decades. The big three counties account for most of the state’s growth, he said.
In addition, Madison County had growth from 2000 to 2010, but at a slower rate from 2010 to now. It is a trend that many of the “regional centers” around Nebraska had, which are populations of 10,000 or more.
In 1950, Nebraska’s big three counties accounted for less than one-third of the state population. By 2010, it had become more than half the state population.
Nebraskans also tend to have a high percentage of workers in the workforce, especially older Nebraskans.
In the age 55-64 category, 74.4 percent of Nebraskans work, which is second only to North Dakota with 74.5 percent. Neighboring state South Dakota was seventh, Iowa ninth and Kansas 10th.
In addition, Nebraska is first in both husband-wife pairs working full time and husband-wife pairs working year-round for the period 2012-16.
“Nebraskans work,” Drozd said, noting that it might not always be by choice.