Archive for Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Study suggests continued population drop in Kansas

May 29, 2012


— A decades-long decline in population is likely to continue in Kansas, particularly in the west of the state, and four counties could have fewer than 1,000 residents by 2040, according to a study by Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development and Business Research.

Census figures have detailed the decline for years, most recently showing that 77 of Kansas' 105 counties lost population in the last decade. The population of 41 Kansas counties peaked in 1910 or earlier and 28 counties haven't recorded a population increase from one census to the next since 1940, not even during the post-World War II baby boom, The Hutchinson News reported.

The center made two separate projections based on different factors. One projection considered birth and death rates and assumed that migration patterns recorded in each county from 2000 to 2010 would continue. The second approach did not factor in migration patterns and considered what would happen as the current population ages.

Historic migration patterns are important but they might not be the best predictor of the future, said Jeremy Hill, director of the center.

"In some of these communities, we're getting down to a very small population," Hill said. "People who want to move probably already have left. People who are there are there for one reason or another. They're attached to the land or they're there for work and they've probably already gone through the agricultural productivity (gains that reduced farm employment). They're not likely to decline any further."

Without migration, Wichita State projected that 37 counties — 22 in the western Kansas — would lose population. The main reason for the decline is a relatively low concentration of women of child-bearing age, Hill said.

With migration, the study projected that 83 counties, including 51 of the 54 from Reno County west to the Colorado border, would continue to lose population through 2040. In the western half of the state, only Ford, Ellis and Hamilton counties could be expected to grow.

By either method, Greeley County, which had 1,235 people in the 2010 Census, will be Kansas' smallest county in 2040. Assuming no migration, Greeley's population would drop nearly 10 percent to 1,113, according to the study. If migration patterns continue, it would drop nearly 64 percent, to 447 people, and be one of four Kansas counties — along with Wallace, Kiowa and Lane — with fewer than 1,000 people in 2040.

"I don't necessarily believe that every community will go that low," Hill said. "At some point we might be at that inflection point where it's already at the bare minimum of people willing to move out."

Hill said he believes some communities, even those in rural areas, could grow if U.S. manufacturing rebounds as the costs of doing business in China increase. That would prompt more manufacturing jobs to return to the Midwest because of the relatively low labor costs and the skill set of the work force, he said.

"If we look in Kansas, where?" he said. "Really it's not going to be Wichita central city, although Wichita will continue to grow. I think there is skill-set value there. However, I think communities around major metros and some other central hubs across the state — Hutch, Hays, Great Bend, Dodge and Pittsburg are great examples — are where manufacturing will likely re-emerge."


autie 5 years, 11 months ago

This study is obviously flawed in so many ways. With our new tax structure there will be thousands of new jobs all across the state. Small business owners will be shoving each other out of the way to move to Kansas to benefit from no income tax. Thousands I tell you. The boom is coming. Start your speculation now!

Bob Forer 5 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps we could jump start the anticipated boom by legalizing prostitution in western Kansas. With the sharp decline in woman of child bearing years out west, there is probably a lot of unsatisfied young men roaming the prairie. Add a casino and make it a tourist destination. Call it a Bed, Bet & Booze. .

slvrntrt 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree.

Then all they have to do is legalize marijuana, tax it, and Kansas will become the most spectacular and wealthy state in the nation.

Liberty275 5 years, 11 months ago

Soy beans my butt! We're planting weeds!

If we can't be the world's breadbasket, we can be their pharmacist.

GatewayLSAT 5 years, 11 months ago

Autie, your picture is as current as your economic views. Your enthusiasm can't be sincere - you mean that ironically, right? You know what ironically MEANS, right....?

blindrabbit 5 years, 11 months ago

autie: Where did you get that kool-aid, Smilin Sam really got you convinced! Really though, time to reconsider "The Buffalo Commons" concept only with Bison not Buffalo. Just think of tourism possibilities with vast amounts of Western Kansas returned to it's native prairie past.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 11 months ago

Notice the part about manufacturing coming back to Kansas because the price to do business in China is going up?

Mark Jakubauskas 5 years, 11 months ago

Project forward to the year 2100 the changes in population that occurred between 2000 and 2010, and Johnson County will account for nearly half the population of the state.

GatewayLSAT 5 years, 11 months ago

Brilliant observation, Mark. Thankfully the majority formed by Johnson and Douglas Counties will be significantly more progressive on social issues than the state as a whole, will at least value education as a worthy use of public funds, and will (hopefully) never allow Kansas to be the laughingstock that we were when we outlawed the teaching of evolution.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

These days Kansas is overrun with fanatical far right zealots that want to impose their idea of morality on everyone. If I was starting over tomorrow, it would be somewhere else. It's not income taxes that's causing the exodus.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 11 months ago

We should stop subsidizing western Kansas with school and government infrastructure and other incentives to live there.

Let the free market decide the fate of western Kansas. If people don't mind driving 50 miles to a school or post office or government building, let them live there. But stop subsidizing a dying part of the state.

BringBackMark 5 years, 11 months ago

Then we can all prance around in the Baker Wetlands and try to find a snail or something to eat. We should hope like hell that people continue to live in rural America even if we have to "subsidize" their eductaional, medical, and other needs.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 11 months ago

I see a lot of people whining and complaining about Kansas being a Republican state... Sam this, republican that, and right wing agendas lol... What I don't see is anyone who is complaining running for public office or doing anything about it... Amazing those who complain have all the answers but yet don't run to change anything...

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

well, you'd have to move to the middle of nowhere that probably doesn't even allow beer sales on Sunday. So that's kind of a downer.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 11 months ago

Kansas Governer Sam Brownbackwards. The rats are leaving the sinking ship

I moved here 30 years ago to go to work for a very unstable and problematic misical instrument manufacturing company.

Worst decision I ever made. I would leave in a heartbeat if I did not have family who now live here now.

"Bleeding Kansas" still exists, with all the tea bag republicans and idiots who vote for their ilk.

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

Why would you move somewhere in order to work for a very unstable and problematic company?

honestone 5 years, 11 months ago

This is really a legit article. If all you silly people would just pay attention good times are a coming. I just saw ten new businesses start up the other day and with that massive growth we are experiencing it will trickle down on us...soon...very soon.

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 11 months ago

No wonder the fundies want to restrict birth control. Helps that pesky population drain from folks moving to avoid "right-wing" values being forced upon them.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 11 months ago

Have you ever wondered just exactly how many people the legislators elected from some of those areas in western KS actually represent? I'll bet some of them represent districts that are in the low four digits in population. On the one hand, they may actually have tighter controls on what values they have to represent in the state house. On the other, it may just give them a freer hand to put their "values" up for sale to the highest bidder. And guess who has the most money to buy them?

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 11 months ago

I hate to say this but as much as I truly despise Brownback and want to go mouthwash every time I say his name, he isn't really at fault for this. This has been going on for a very long time and represents a demographic shift happening all over the country. It's the inevitable consequence of the death of the family farm/ranch and the rise of technology that allowed farm consolidation to occur into something more technology intensive and less labor intensive. Ranches and farms are now measured in square miles, not square acres. Couple that with the migration shift to larger urban centers that has been going on for the same amount of time and the result is large swaths of land with few people. There's still a teeny amount of manufacturing going on in those areas. The dry wall factory, close to the gypsum mines in Barber County comes to mind, although the housing bust nearly sent it belly up. And the oil fields still need a certain number of workers. I know of the Tyson chicken plant in Garden City as well. I'm not too familiar with NW Kansas and what's going on there. But it's pretty sad when, outside of the two or three truly urban areas in the state, anything other than farming is counted on the fingers of one hand. Kansas is a rural, agricultural state. It's who and what we are and what the state has been historically since the very beginning. All of it's eggs were placed in the wheat basket. Now all of those small farms are gone. Is it any wonder we're bleeding population like a severed artery?

cowboy 5 years, 11 months ago

The only growth you might see is mail box drops for faceless LLC's.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

It's not hard to pick out the Western Kansas kids that just moved East after graduating from Sili U. They're the one's with Truck Nuts, Nobama bumper stickers, Wranglers and bad haircuts.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

but while they're moving East, the State's best graduates, and future, are moving to CA, NY, WA and other "high tax" states where the quality of life is high and there aren't a bunch of wacky right wing nuts trying to get in your bedroom and force you to church on Sunday morning. So I guess we're stuck with Truck Nutz Nick and Swing Dancin Dolly.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 11 months ago

They're the boys my oldest daughter refused to date. When I asked her why she said, "Because all they're interested in is getting drunk, getting laid and fixing up their trucks."

Patricia Davis 5 years, 11 months ago

I grew up in Oklahoma which has 77 counties and population of about a million more than Kansas with its 105 counties. Hell, we have almost twice the number of counties than California (58). With improved technology and continued decline in population in western Kansas, we need to get real. Reduce counties. Reduce number of school districts. We need to use our more meager resources with vision not vitriol. Our days to continue as it's always been are over.

Jimo 5 years, 11 months ago

The bad news: the greatest export Kansas has is its children - to all those liberal states with high taxes and shudder regulations (or, to be fair, warm states with sunny winters and the constant drone of a/c in the spring, summer, and fall).

The good news: the Constitution guarantees Kansas no fewer than one U.S. House Representative. In other words, even Brownback can't make up his zero! (And we get two Senators regardless - at least until those darned socialists rewrite the Constitution to make the Senate democratic too.)

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