Lawrence’s population growth slows, but it’s still in better shape than most cities in Kansas

photo by: Douglas County GIS

Homes in a west Lawrence neighborhood are pictured in this 2016 aerial photograph from the Douglas County property viewer map.

Lawrence’s population in 2018 grew at its slowest rate in years, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The new figures also show that Lawrence continues to live life on the edge. (Don’t worry, that’s not a reference about the Census Bureau knowing what you did last weekend.) Rather, Lawrence seemingly is the western edge of significant growth in the state.

Lawrence’s population in 2018 stood at 97,286 people, according to the Census Bureau’s estimates. That’s up 533 people from 2017, which equates to a growth rate of 0.5%. That’s only the second time this decade Lawrence hasn’t added at least 1,000 people. The other time was in 2012, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, when the population grew by 825 people or 0.9%.

But Lawrence’s population growth could be worse. Turn to the west to see sunsets and shrinking cities. Lawrence’s fellow university community, Manhattan, continued its population-losing streak. Manhattan fell below the 55,000 mark, dropping 0.3% of its population. It marked the third straight year that the home of Kansas State University saw a population decline, despite ongoing construction of a major bioscience and defense facility in the community.

Topeka’s struggles with population are even more severe. The capital city now has experienced seven consecutive years of population declines. Topeka’s population is down to 125,904.

Cities to the east of Lawrence, though, continue to post some good gains. The Census Bureau provided population estimates for every city and town in Kansas on Thursday. I didn’t have time to go through all of the figures, but here’s a look at some of the larger communities. I’ll break them up via Team East and Team West, based on their location from Lawrence.

Team East

• Lenexa: 55,294, up 3.2%

• Olathe: 139,605, up 1.5%

• Gardner: 21,871, up 1.3%

• Overland Park: 192,536, up 0.6%

• Lawrence: 97,286, up 0.5%

• Shawnee: 65,845, up 0.4%

• Kansas City, Kan.: 152,958, up less than 0.1%

• Leavenworth: 36,062, down 0.3%

• Pittsburg: 20,178, down 0.2%

Team West

• Derby: 24,721, up 4.4%

• Wichita: 389,255, down 0.2%

• Salina: 46,716, down 0.2%

• Hays: 20,852, down 0.2%

• Emporia: 24,765, down 0.2%

• Manhattan: 54,959, down 0.3%

• Topeka: 125,904, down 0.5%

• Garden City: 26,546, down 0.6%

• Hutchinson: 40,623, down 0.6%

• Dodge City: 27,239, down 1.4%

• Liberal: 19,495, down 1.8%

• Junction City: 22,120, down 3.1%

In fairness, Team East’s mascot is definitely a Johnson County SUV with a Jayhawk bumper sticker. Once you get outside of Johnson County or Lawrence, growth is hard to find in those other communities also. The numbers show how reliant the entire state has become on the success of Johnson County.

As for Lawrence, local leaders likely won’t have much heartburn over the 0.5% growth rate, even though it does represent a pretty significant slowdown compared with more recent years. It is just one year. If Lawrence posts several years of below 1% growth, then there will be more interesting questions for local leaders, such as whether the city’s $100 million sewer plant is going to serve enough new households to pencil out. If it doesn’t, expect sewer rates to go up more than expected. It is details like that which make these growth numbers relevant in real life.

Here’s a look at Lawrence’s population growth since 2010:

• 2011: 89,125, up 1,057 people, 1.2%

• 2012: 89,950, up 825 people, 0.9%

• 2013: 91,179, up 1,229 people, 1.3%

• 2014: 92,719, up 1,540 people, 1.6%

• 2015: 94,104, up 1,385 people, 1.4%

• 2016: 95,648, up 1,544 people, 1.6%

• 2017; 96,753, up 1,105, 1.1%

• 2018: 97,286, up 533 people, 0.5%

As for other towns of area interest, the smaller communities surrounding Lawrence, for the most part, continue to see growth:

• Tonganoxie: 5,524, up 80 people, 1.4%

• Lecompton: 655, up 9 people, 1.3%

• Baldwin City: 4,691, up 52 people, 1.1%

• Eudora: 6,384, up 64 people, 1.0%

• Perry: 905 people, down 1 person

• Ottawa: 12,267, down 37 people, 0.3%


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.