New Census numbers show Lawrence is growing at strong rate, but we’re still not a 100K population town, despite City Hall’s assertion

And I feel bad when I misplace my car keys. (Really bad when I misplace the entire car, but legally, I’m not supposed to talk about that anymore.) Just think, though, about losing track of 5,000 Lawrence residents. That is not exactly what has happened in Lawrence, but there is a 5,000-person difference of opinion about how large the city is these days.

Back in February, we reported city planners declared Lawrence had topped the 100,000 population mark for the first time, according the city’s annual population estimates. But the latest population estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t agree.

The recently released 2017 population estimate from the Census Bureau puts Lawrence’s population at 96,892. That’s compared to the city’s population estimate of 102,002. The Census Bureau estimates Lawrence’s population grew at a rate of 1.6 percent from July 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017. The city estimates the city’s population grew by about 2.5 percent over a 12-month period.

The city and the Census Bureau have had dueling sets of estimates before.

In the past, the city has contended its housing count totals show that there are more people in the city than the Census Bureau has estimated. The city even contended the 2010 Census — which is not an estimate but an actual count — also was off.

It will take someone with a bigger abacus than mine to get to the bottom of that. The world won’t stop turning either way, but the numbers do have some importance. The growth rate, in particular, is important. A community that is growing at 2.5 percent per year is going to have needs for new infrastructure much more quickly than one growing at 1.6 percent, for instance.

Businesses sometimes use population numbers to determine whether they’ll consider expanding into a community. Some retailers, for instance, may not go into a community less than 100,000. In that regard, the Census Bureau’s numbers are likely to carry more weight than the city-produced estimate.

While we can’t crow about being a 100,000-population city (I’ve always been confused when to crow), the Census numbers still were pretty positive for Lawrence.

Of major cities in the state, Lawrence had the fastest growth rate. That used to be the case for many years in the 1990s and part of the early 2000s. But then population growth tapered off. A rate of 1.6 percent still isn’t as high as the 2 percent numbers we often posted, but it is quite a bit faster than the years when we were posting rates of less than a half-percent.

Here’s a look at population figures for some of the larger cities in the region:

• Lawrence: 96,892. Up 1.6 percent

• Kansas City, Mo.: 488,943, up 1.4 percent

• Olathe: 137,472, up 1.3 percent

• Overland Park: 191,278, up 1.2 percent

• Lenexa: 53,553, up 1.2 percent

• Kansas City, Kan.: 152,938, up 0.5 percent

• Shawnee: 65,513, up 0.4 percent

• Leavenworth: 36,210, up 0.3 percent

• Leawood: 34,659, up 0.2 percent

• Wichita: 390,591, up 0.1 percent

• Manhattan: 54,832, up 0.1 percent

• Topeka: 126,587, down 0.1 percent

• Salina: 46,994, down 0.6 percent

• Hutchinson: 40,772, down 0.8 percent

• Dodge City: 27,720, down 0.3 percent

While I haven’t included it on the list of big cities in the state, one area community that is growing faster than Lawrence isn’t that far away. Gardner — in southern Johnson County near the large intermodal rail facility — continues to grow at a strong pace. The Census Bureau estimates Gardner’s population increased by 2.3 percent, and now stands at 21,583 people.

There’s also one small town nearby that is putting up bigger growth numbers than Lawrence. Tonganoxie grew by 2.5 percent and now is at 5,444 residents. Growth in some of the other small communities near Lawrence, however, was hard to find. Here’s a look at some area towns:

• Baldwin City: 4,644, down 0.8 percent

• Eudora: 6,329, down 1.2 percent

• Tonganoxie: 5,444, up 2.5 percent

• Ottawa: 12,342, up 0.5 percent

• Oskaloosa: 1,065, unchanged

• Lecompton: 647, down 1.0 percent (7 people)

• Perry: 906, up 0.6 percent (up 6 people)

On the last two, I should note that Lecompton’s 1 percent decline in population amounted to seven people leaving town. Perry’s 0.6 percent increase in population amounted to six people coming to the community.

Here’s what I’m thinking: Six people crossed the Kansas River from Lecompton into Perry, and one guy — I can sympathize — is standing on the bridge between the two towns trying to remember where he parked his car.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.