The Census Bureau has finally released county-level numbers from last year’s Census and, as expected, the Omaha and Lincoln areas saw big population gains over the last decade while most rural areas continued to decline
Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy now account for 56% of the population. Overall, 24 of Nebraska’s 93 counties gained at least some population, but the big 3 were the only ones that grew by more than 10%.
David Drozd, research coordinator for UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research, was surprised more small counties didn’t post at least modest growth.
He thinks a big factor may be underreporting because many of the smaller counties had a lower response rate than those in more urban areas.
The new census data shows Sarpy County had the biggest percentage growth at 20% for 190,604 residents. Douglas County, which includes Omaha, gained the most overall with a net increase of 67,416 or 13% increase. It now has 584,526 residents.
Lancaster County, which includes Lincoln, also grew 13%, going from 285,407 to 322,608. McPherson County, in the Sandhills of west-central Nebraska, became the state’s least populated county with only 399 residents..
The new figures will likely shift more political power to both cities when the legislature meets in special session next month to draw up new legislative and congressional district boundaries.
Drozd thinks they will translate into an urban majority in the Legislature with big cities controlling an estimated 27 of the 49 seats.