State stands to lose seat in Congress

Kansas is growing so slowly it risks losing a representative in Congress, a Kansas University researcher said this week.

Census Bureau estimates released today show that the state’s population grew by 1.7 percent between 2000 and 2004 — to 2.7 million residents. That’s less than half the 4.3 percent increase nationally.

Xan Wedel, at Kansas University’s Policy Research Institute, said that lag could affect the state’s political prospects.

“If we continue to be outpaced in growth by other states, I would say in 2010 we definitely are at risk to lose another representative,” Wedel said.

The last time Kansas lost a representative was in 1990, when the state’s delegation was pared from five to four.

Kansas has added more than 46,000 residents since 2000, the bureau reports, but the state’s growth would be near zero without Johnson County, which added 45,000 residents.

Most of the growth occurred in the state’s urban areas — near Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita.

But rural areas suffered. Most Kansas counties lost population — and 30, mostly in the northwest corner of the state, saw a decline of more than 5 percent.

“We’ve already been seeing that for some time,” Wedel said. “We see farm sizes increase, because the family farm is dying and corporations are coming in and buying more ground.”

The result could be a less politically influential state that is drifting from its farm roots.

“I think it’s coming,” Wedel said, “unless we can do something to attract a lot more people.”