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Archive for Monday, December 31, 2001

Kansas becoming more diverse

December 31, 2001

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— From the serious to not so serious, the 2000 census presented a snapshot of a Kansas that grew and became more diverse.

With a nearly endless combination of numbers and charts, there was much to be learned about Kansans who they are, what they do and where they are.

Using a little imagination, the census figures can create a village call it Sunflower of 100 people proportional to Kansas. It would have 86 white residents, seven Hispanics, five blacks, an Asian and an American Indian.

To continue the fantasy, Sunflower would be equal parts male and female and 43 would drive to work. Since 1990, eight people moved to Sunflower.

Back to reality, Kansas grew to 2,688,418 people on April 1, 2000, an 8.5 percent increase from 1990.

The biggest surprise was that Hispanics doubled to 188,252 to become 7 percent of the population. Much of that growth was around the packing plant towns of Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal.

"I think it was that one didn't have an overall picture. It wasn't known how much it had grown everywhere," Thelma Helyar, Kansas Statistical Abstract editor, said of the Hispanic figures.

Asians jumped to 46,806 a 47 percent increase with much of that also in the packing plant towns. Whites accounted for 86 percent of all Kansans.

Migrating to cities

The census also gave substance to the obvious the wide open rural areas are more open as people moved to urban areas where the jobs are. A dozen rural counties, mainly in western Kansas, lost 10 percent or more of their population.

In terms of percentage, the top three losing counties were Graham, with a 16.9 percent drop; Comanche, 15 percent, and Ness, 14.4 percent all with vast open areas of pasture and cropland.

The biggest percentage gain was in Johnson County with a 27.1 percent increase as more and more of the area's farmland gave way to upscale malls and high-priced houses.

The town with the greatest percentage loss was Athol, down from 86 to 51 a 41 percent drop.

An aging population

Kansas aged, largely from the baby boomers' bubble. The median age was 35.2 years, up from 32.9 years in the 1990 head count. Smith County residents age 85-plus made up 5.5 percent of the population the highest percentage in Kansas and fourth nationally.

There were other slices of life.

For instance, Kansas leads the nation in the percentage of homes with plumbing facilities 99.75 percent.

Another snippet: 91 percent of working Kansans drove to their jobs and 60 percent needed less than 20 minutes to get there.

With the 2000 census, it seems as though people were inundated with more information than ever before. Helyar said it's not a matter for more information, just more information available to the public.

Since the 1990 census, computer technology has grown by quantum leaps and Helyar noted, "It's much easier to get at it now."

A broader picture

There were more ways for people to identify themselves 63 racial categories, up from five in 1990. Hispanic was considered an ethnicity not a race; and people of Hispanic ethnicity could be of any race.

Along with the head count, there was a supplemental survey distributed to 700,000 households in 1,203 counties nationwide at the same time as the head count. The report was part of a Census Bureau test to see if such a survey done every year can replace the long census questionnaire sent out every decade.

The census provided a broader picture of social trends because it was based on forms mailed to 120 million households.

Helyar said she can understand if some people feel they are being overdosed on data, but added such information is important.

Knowing about population shifts figures into legislative and congressional redistricting. It's also important for planning at all levels, from private investors to the allocation of government money.

"If you don't know where the population is increasing or decreasing, you don't know where to put your money," Helyar said.

While the 2000 census detailed numerous changes, it also showed some things didn't change in 10 years: Freeport, for example, with a population of six, remained the state's smallest town.

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