Rural Nebraska continues to lose population while urban Nebraska continues to gain population.
The United States Census Bureau reports that 64 of Nebraska’s 93 counties experienced a decline of population last year. Forty-two counties experienced more deaths than births in 2012.
Even though 64 rural counties lost population, David Drozd with the University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Public Affairs Research says that is an improvement over the trend during the first years of the 21st Century, when 79 counties lost population.
“This improvement would likely stem from some of the improved agricultural profit margins from farming with relatively higher commodity prices here the last couple of years versus say five or 10 years ago. So, we do see a bit of improvement in our rural areas, but it continues to be a struggle,” Drozd tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Some rural counties have experienced a natural population decline.
“About half of Nebraska’s counties are having more deaths than births,” according to Drozd. “So, that is a fundamental problem and, nationally, that’s becoming more of the case as well, where across the U.S. about a third of the nation’s counties are having that natural phenomenon where deaths are exceeding births.”
While rural Nebraska keeps shrinking, urban Nebraska grows.
The Omaha metropolitan area population now exceeds 885,000. The Lincoln area population now exceeds 300,000. The Sioux City, Iowa metropolitan area, which includes Dakota and Dixon Counties in northeastern Nebraska, is nearly 170,000.
Grand Island now is officially considered a metropolitan area, at least by the federal government, which bestows the tag on cities that exceed 50,000 residents. The Grand Island population in 2012 exceeded 80,000.
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this story.