Archive for Friday, June 1, 2012


Rural Kansas counties are expected to continue their population decline, but a new study indicates Douglas County could stand to gain in the population shift.

June 1, 2012


A couple of Kansas studies released this week are pessimistic about the chances of stemming the population shift from rural to urban areas of the state, but they also suggest some opportunities for growth in several counties, including Douglas.

The fact that rural Kansas is losing population isn’t news. The 2010 U.S. Census documented the fact that 77 of the state’s 105 counties had lost population since the 2000 count. Unfortunately for the western half of the state, a study conducted by Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research sees little hope of reversing that trend. A companion study of urban counties in the state projects that the state’s urban population, which represented 85.5 percent of the total in the 2010 Census, will comprise 90.3 percent of the state’s population by 2040.

The WSU group used two methods to project population trends for the next 30 years. One projection was based purely on birth and death rates and assumed that migration patterns of the last decade would remain steady. The second projection looked just at how the aging population in many counties would affect their future. Comparing the two projections clearly shows that migration is expected to have a negative impact on the rural population. Without migration, the study projects that 37 counties, including 22 in western Kansas, will lose population. When migration is figured in, that number rises to 83 counties, including all but three counties west of Hutchinson.

On the other side of the coin, urban population in the state is expected to grow over the next 30 years, but at a slower rate than in the past. Fortunately for Douglas County, it is projected to be one of the three top counties in the state for percentage of growth. The Wichita State study predicts the county will grow by 38.5 percent by 2040, with an average growth rate of 1.3 percent. Only two counties, Johnson and Pottawatomie, are expected to surpass that growth rate.

Douglas County’s growth may be part of a trend mentioned by Jeremy Hill, director of CEDBR. Although he didn’t name Lawrence specifically, he noted that communities that are close to major metropolitan areas could benefit from an upswing in manufacturing jobs that may return to the Midwest because of its relatively low labor costs and the skills of its workforce. That would be great news for Douglas County.

Efforts to try to preserve or build population in rural Kansas counties are well-intentioned, but if the Wichita State group’s predictions hold true, it looks like the state is fighting a losing battle. Geography, at least in part, has put Douglas County on the other side of this trend. It’s important that we focus our efforts on taking advantage of that opportunity.


down_the_river 6 years ago

Speculating on population shifts is always a fun exercise, but I'm guessing there are some factors that could cast doubt on the Lawrence projections of this report. To start, the annual growth rate listed in this report is 50 percent greater than we experienced in the most recent Census decade. Will we double our most recent rates and meet these projections? Doubtful. The University is still a significant factor in Lawrence, and the incoming freshman enrollment continues to decline, most recently to a 15 year low. New admissions standards are expected to take an additional 25-30 percent cut from the incoming freshman counts. That's before even considering the impact of on-line education advances. Recent discussions of the Stanford and MIT efforts in on-line development suggest the internet will have a similar impact on traditional higher education as it has on the newspaper and music industry. Perhaps KU will match these innovations, but it won't mean the students will have to live in Lawrence. Combine that student trend with the decline in ex-urban growth as working people weary of the commute costs and time. The work in Topeka/KC - live in Lawrence model diminishes as well. The smart money is on a continued decline in Lawrence population until a concerted effort is made to entice some of those potential manufacturing developments. A downward spiral is never fun, just ask anyone in those Kansas counties that are shrinking.

KU_cynic 6 years ago

I would prefer that Lawrence grow organically through improvements in job mix and wage/salary growth over population growth, and I agree with down_the_river that Lawrence will struggle to grow.

That said, the overhang in the single-family home market and the large increase in the multi-family stock of apartments says to me that Lawrence has already "built on the come", so to speak. If KU enrollments drop and/or Lawrence fails to grow its population by attracting jobs offered by non-government and non-service sector employers then there will be a lot of unproductive real estate investments in this town, and that won't be good for any of us.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Lawrence,Kansas = most expensive place to live in Kansas with the lowest wages in Kansas and increased taxes galore = reckless management and too many tax dollar moochers.

The best description of tax dollar moochers and their monster negative impacts at local levels comes from three sources:




Yep describes Lawrence,Kansas ......

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

No mention of the fact that our water supplies are already rather fully utilized, and once Clinton is fully silted in the next decade or two, there will likely even need to be water rationing, especially if global warming leads to diminished average rainfalls in this area. And that's if there is minimal population increase.

hujiko 6 years ago

Our water supply is nowhere near being fully utilized. If it were, the Kansas river would be dry at the confluence with the Missouri.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

We don't own all the water rights to the Kansas river. In case you hadn't noticed, there are other municipalities along that river. What do you think would happen if Topeka (or any other upstream user) chose to drain it before it got to Lawrence, as you appear to suggest we could do to downstream users?

hujiko 6 years ago

I don't know, ask anyone that lives along the Arkansas River in western Kansas.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

Huh? How does the draining of the Ark River in any way support your contention that the Kaw could never become an inadequate source of water for Lawrence?

hujiko 6 years ago

I've contended nothing. Without a doubt the Kansas river will become inadequate, but not for the same reasons you are stressing and not in a period of time either of us will witness.

My example of the Arkansas illustrates how water rights are ignored. If Kansas wants to tap all of the Kaw as Colorado does the Ark, there is nothing Missouri can do about it. Yes they can file lawsuits, but unless they disable every dam, municipal intake, and irrigation ditch, they will still be without input from the Kaw.

I'm not advocating this, clearly. It's only an example to show that there is plenty of fresh water still flowing out of Kansas towards the sea everyday - despite our intensive usage.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"It's only an example to show that there is plenty of fresh water still flowing out of Kansas towards the sea everyday"

Did I ever say otherwise? I' was merely pointing out that the amount flowing past Lawrence will not be adequate for our uses once Clinton Lake is fully silted in and/or climate change reduces rainfall in areas to our west, even if there is no increase in the population of Douglas County. And the fact is, no one really knows exactly how soon any of that will happen-- it very well could happen in your or my lifetime.

Mark Jakubauskas 6 years ago

Clinton won't silt up in the next decade or so. It has more time than that. However, many parts of the state, particularly the Neosho Basin, need to be more worried about their water supplies.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

From what I've heard, there really isn't a firm estimate of how long it'll be till Clinton is silted in to an extent that it affects volume of water supply. A decade is a worst-case scenario, but if there is a decrease in rainfall, the combination of silting in and drought could easily affect water supplies in a decade or so.

lazydazy 6 years ago

Lawrence is a Beautiful place to live. Move if you don't like it. I moved & stayed here because I love it. Life is Good.

scaramouchepart2 6 years ago

Problem with going after manufacturing jobs.!st the fact that there are not very many manufacturing companies looking to move or expand each year. Other is Lawrence does not have the skill sets needed for those jobs so the city and county would end up paying to cover part if not all training in order to get one of the very few manufacturing companies to move to Lawrence.

Lawrence cannot afford to continually pay for developer's infrastructure and training the employees in the skills needed to support manufacturing jobs. Something has to change. What are you willing to give up. Retail/hotel/apartment development in which the applicants demand incentives or jobs that actually pay a living wage so people can afford to live and grow Lawrence. Part time retail jobs do not grow Lawrence. Those jobs are filled by students or out of town people.

There is a middle ground job skill that fits the job skills Lawrence does have, but we as a community do not really want to even consider this idea. The service industry. 1.Internet Services, data processing and other information services 2.Computer systems and related services 3.Software 4.Employment services 5.Management, science, and technical consulting 6.Home health care 7.Personal financial advisory 8.Childcare services 9.Arts, entertainment, and recreation 10.Motion picture/video There are smaller communities doing a better job of growing jobs and their community than Lawrence is. These need to be given the same boost as the Bioscience and manufacturing. A well rounded job available community has the best chance to put their foot in any door for any business looking to relocate or a new office.

jafs 6 years ago

Those are interesting ideas.

But, why do so many people seem to believe that we need to "grow" our community?

Do all communities need to continually expand their population/infrastructure? If so, why?

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