Despite the exodus from rural counties across the state, Kansas' population is growing - albeit more slowly than its neighbors.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced Kansas added more than 10,000 residents during the year ending July 1. That brought the state's population to 2.74 million residents, a growth rate of 0.4 percent.
While that matched the average growth rate for Midwest states, it was slower than rates for Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado. But Kansas officials saw the numbers as good news.
"We just keep increasing at a regular rate," said Ann Durkes, an analyst with the Kansas Division of the Budget. "It's definitely not negative, by any means."
The state's bigger cities - Wichita, and the Topeka-Lawrence-Kansas City corridor - are growing quickly enough to offset the decline in rural areas.
The exception, Durkes said: The meatpacking towns of Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City also are growing, with big increases in the immigrant population.
Overall, Durkes said, new residents "are actually moving here. It's not just births outpacing deaths, but that's part of it."
She said Kansas should see its growth rate rise during the next year, as Ford and GM expand their manufacturing efforts in the Kansas City area and Fort Riley welcomes an additional 2,600 soldiers - and their families - as part of a national base realignment process.
"The population estimate for next year, when (the soldiers) really come in, is expected to go up significantly in that area," Durkes said.
Nevada was the fastest-growing state, with a 3.5 percent rise in population. Three states - Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island - lost residents. The average rate of growth nationwide was 0.9 percent.
By the numbers
Here are estimated populations of Kansas and surrounding states, as of July 1, 2005: State - Population - % increase Kansas - 2.74 million - 0.4 Colorado - 4.67 million - 1.7 Missouri - 5.76 million - 0.7 Oklahoma - 3.52 million - 0.7 Nebraska - 1.75 million - 0.6 U.S. - 293 million - 0.9 Source: U.S. Census Bureau