OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska’s population grew at the same rate as the rest of the nation for the first time in at least 120 years, breaking the cycle in which the state consistently trailed the United States average, according to new U.S. Census data released Monday.
Nebraska’s population increased 7.4% between 2010 and 2020, matching the national growth rate in the same period. The state had grown at slower pace every decade since at least 1900, according to data compiled by the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research.
“That is something that we haven’t seen for a long period of time,” said David Drozd, the center’s research coordinator, who specializes in census data.
Drozd said he had expected Nebraska’s growth to slightly lag the national growth rate. Although a lot could change over the next decade, Drozd said Nebraska’s growth leaves it well-positioned to maintain its three U.S. House seats beyond 2030.
“We’re in better shape,” he said.
Nebraska’s population totaled 1,961,504 as of 2020, according to the census numbers. It’s now the 37th largest state in the nation, passing West Virginia since 2010. The state also grew at a faster rate than its neighbors except for South Dakota, whose population increased by 8.9%, and Colorado, which surged by 14.8%.
But the growth was small in terms of actual numbers. Nebraska saw a net increase of 135,163 residents over the decade, a number dwarfed by bigger states such as Texas, which added nearly 4 million residents, and Florida, which grew its population by 2.7 million. Nebraska grew at a faster rate than California, which increased by 6.1%, but California’s percentage increase translates to an additional 2.3 million people.
Drozd said Nebraska’s growth was driven by a combination of in-state births outpacing deaths and net in-migration to the state.
The census data released Monday didn’t include community-specific numbers or demographic data, but Drozd said Nebraska’s growth is driven by population gains in its big and mid-sized cities while rural areas mostly hold steady or decline.