Lawrence posts population growth for 2021, while neighboring JoCo continues to grow big but in new ways

In this 2012 file photo, a Lawrence Habitat for Humanity home is shown under construction.

There are five towns in Kansas that added new residents at a rate of at least 1 person per day in 2021. Lawrence wasn’t quite one of them, but it could at least tout itself as a place with a growing population. Most couldn’t, and some of the ones that no longer can might surprise you.

In 2021, when the world started moving about again as the population became vaccinated, the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the movement was far from uniform. Sure, places like Kansas City, Kan. and Topeka continued their trends of population declines. But now, there are communities in prosperous Johnson County that also are seeing their populations shrink.

Overland Park, the largest city in Johnson County and one of the first to develop heavily, might be the most eye-catching. It lost nearly 500 residents in 2021, the fourth-highest amount of decline in the state, according to the estimates released this week. Leawood, a rich community of a little more than 30,000 people in Johnson County, also posted a population loss.

But that doesn’t mean Johnson County is becoming any less of an engine in the state’s growth machine. Four of the five cities that added residents at a rate of at least one per day are in Johnson County. Johnson County is still at the center of the state’s prosperity, but these latest numbers — remember, it is only one year’s worth of data — might be an early sign of shifting fortunes in JoCo.

As for Lawrence and Douglas County, the year was more defined by borderline stagnation than big shifts. Every city in the county grew, but only Baldwin City posted a growth rate of at least 1% for the year. The southern Douglas County community had a growth rate of 1.5%. Lawrence, on the other hand, had a growth rate of 0.34%. But percentage growth rates can be a bit misleading. Baldwin City’s 1.5% growth rate amounted to 72 new residents for the community that now numbers 4,882. Lawrence’s 0.34% growth rate amounted to 323 new people to bring the city’s population to 95,256.

The 323 new people in Lawrence is quite a bit less than the type of growth the city has produced at various times in its history, when building more than 300 single-family homes a year was the norm and population growth routinely topped 1,000 people a year. That said, times are different now, and the 323 new people was the sixth-highest total for any city in the state last year.

Here’s a look at the cities that grew the most in 2021, based on the number of actual people added to their ranks.

• Olathe: up 1,614

• Lenexa: up 887

• Gardner: up 542

• Spring Hill: up 452

• Andover: up 397

• Lawrence: up 323

• Basehor: up 313

You’ll notice the state’s largest cities, Wichita, Kansas City and Overland Park, didn’t make the list. That fits with the national trend. People aren’t flocking to the biggest places anymore, according to the new data from the Census Bureau. Nationally, more than half of the 15 largest cities in the U.S. experienced population declines. New York lost more than 300,000 people, while Chicago lost more than 45,000 and Los Angeles more than 40,000.

Here’s a look at the Kansas cities that lost the most people by number.

• Kansas City: down 1,696

• Wichita: down 1,418

• Junction City: down 514

• Overland Park: down 481

• Salina: down 322

• Topeka: down 306

Measuring the pace of population growth — percentage growth rates — can be useful in gauging which towns are drawing a lot of interest relative to their size. Here’s a look at every town in the state that grew at least 2% and had at least 20 new residents. (Requiring at least 20 new residents weeds out really small towns that can grow 5% or more by just adding one family to their ranks.)

• Spring Hill: up 5.58%

• Linn Valley: up 5.44%

• Goddard: up 5.07%

• Basehor: up 4.53%

• Mulvane: up 3.9%

• De Soto: up 3.86%

• Maize: up 3.55%

• Tonganoxie: up 2.35%

• Gardner: up 2.32%

• St. George: up 2.17%

That list includes lots of towns that are still under 10,000 people but close to a town that is 100,000 people or bigger. Certainly, places like Basehor, De Soto and Tonganoxie are communities that might be attracting people who in a different time would have been locating in Lawrence.

In terms of towns with the largest rate of decline, that list shows isolation does not pay. They are primarily smaller to mid-size towns that aren’t particularly close to a large community. (Again, these are towns with at least 2% decline and a loss of at least 20 residents.)

• Leoti: down 2.85%

• Phillipsburg: down 2.68%

• Satanta: down 2.52%

• Anthony: down 2.44%

• Harper: down 2.38%

• Sublette: down 2.34%

• Kinsley: down 2.21%

• Medicine Lodge: down 2.16%

• Grandview Plaza: down 2.12%

• Norton: down 2.02%

Finally, here’s a list of area towns and other noteworthy communities in the state showing their total population and the rate of growth or decline in 2021.

• Baldwin City: 4,882, up 1.5%

• Bonner Springs: 7,805, down 1.1%

• Basehor: 7,219, up 4.53%

• De Soto: 6,380, up 3.86%

• Eudora: 6,449, up 0.48%

• Kansas City: 154,545, down 1.09%

• Lawrence: 95,256, up 0.34%

• Leavenworth: 37,176, down 0.46%

• Leawood: 33,743, down 0.44%

• Lecompton: 592, up 0.17%

• Lenexa: 58,388, up 1.54%

• Manhattan: 54,763, up 0.40%

• Olathe: 143,014, up 1.14%

• Ottawa: 12,604, down 0.14%

• Overland Park: 197,106, down 0.24%

• Perry: 858, up 0.59%

• Shawnee: 67,511, up 0.16%

• Tonganoxie: 5,702, up 2.35%

• Topeka: 125,963, down 0.24%

• Wichita: 395,699, down 0.36%


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