Archive for Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Lawrence third in U.S. for newcomers

Census: College towns draw most fresh faces

September 24, 2003


If Lawrence sometimes strikes you as a town full of fresh faces, you wouldn't be far wrong, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.

The findings show Lawrence ranked third in the nation for the percentage of its population made up of newcomers. According to the bureau, 39.8 percent of those living in Lawrence in 2000 had not lived in the city five years earlier.

Not surprisingly, eight of the nation's top 10 cities for percentage of recent arrivals were college or military towns. But Lawrence ranked high even among those types of communities.

Jacksonville, N.C., home of the Marines' Camp Lejeune, was first on the list; 45.8 of its population had come from elsewhere. The Bryan-College Station area, home to Texas A&M; University, was second with 44.8 percent of its population from elsewhere. Lawrence was third.

"In general, this ranking highlights one of the basic facts about geographical mobility," the bureau said in its report. "Young adults, particularly those in college or the military, are the most mobile segment of the population."

But there may be other factors at work in Lawrence's ranking. The city has been growing fast in the past decade, attracting many older newcomers who don't attend college but like the college-town amenities and proximity to jobs in Kansas City and Topeka.

Back in the early 1960s, Bob Nunley knew only one couple who lived in Lawrence and commuted to jobs in Topeka and Kansas City.

That's changed.

"Now, I keep running across people like that every day, who work one in Kansas City and one in Topeka," said Nunley, a retired Kansas University geography professor. "Of course, we're ideally set up for that."

Nunley, who spent his career studying why people live where they do, had this idea about what makes Lawrence a magnet for outsiders: The cultural resources make the city attractive to retirees, he said.

"KU provides us, let's face it, with one of the richest set of cultural resources anywhere," Nunley said. "You can go to Swarthout Recital Hall and hear music almost every night for almost no cost. And of course we have all the sports teams and all the other stuff."

Within the past three years, the community's appeal to retirees has been touted in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, a special Reader's Digest publication, AAA's national Home & Away magazine and Joseph Lubow's book, "Choose a College Town for Retirement."

"Certainly, our university plays a big role in that," Mayor David Dunfield said of the Census rankings. "But it confirms what a lot of us have been saying all along: Lawrence is a place people choose to live because of its quality."

Nunley agreed.

"Let's face it," he said. "University towns are awfully nice places to live."

Lawrence ranks third in a U.S. Census Bureau study of shifting populations. Between 1995 and 2000, college and military towns had the most people (age 5 and older) move into their area from outside.
Metropolitan area Percent who were new Number
1. Jacksonville, N.C. 45.8 62,799
2. Bryan-College Station, Texas 44.8 63,940
3. Lawrence 39.8 37,617
4. Bloomington, Ind. 39.0 44,619
5. Corvallis, Ore. 38.4 28,496
6. Killeen-Temple, Texas 37.9 108,257
7. Iowa City, Iowa 37.3 39,109
8. Gainesville, Fla. 36.7 76,103
9. State College, Pa. 35.7 46,259
10. Athens, Ga. 35.3 51,009
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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