While the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday that Iowa would be losing a seat in the U.S. House, the state’s population did increase by just over four percent in the last decade. But the West and Southern regions of the U.S. for the first time surpassed the Midwest in total population in the new census numbers.
Iowa State economist, Liesl Eathington says the big reason for heading west and south are their large metropolitan areas, and their jobs.
Eathington says that is probably the most important driver in the shift in population, as she says the major metropolitan areas serve as a magnet. And that fuels more growth as people believe there are more jobs because of the growth and she says it just keeps fueling itself.
Eathington says retirees looking to move to a warmer climate are another factor in the growth pattern. The midwest became the population leader at the start of the century as people live on and farmed the land. Eathington says larger farms and mechanization have a less of an impact now than they did in early growth changes in Iowa.
She says it was more a problem a few decades ago as things became more mechanized, and she says rural areas have become more dependent on manufacturing, and the loss of those manufacturing jobs has provided one more hurdle to Iowa growth. Eathington says there are some concerns in the numbers that indicate Iowa may have trouble catching up to the high-growth states.
Eathington says the biggest area of concern is if they migration to other states are composed of young people, then we not only lose them, but we lose their children.
“And so these migration patterns are going to have ripple effects through the future, and we are going to pay for it through the future,” Eathington says. Eathington says you can probably find examples in communities across Iowa of people who have left the larger cities to return to a less-crowded Iowa, but they are far outnumbered by the move to other states.
Eathington is anxious to see more detailed numbers released by the Census in the coming weeks.
He says the next thing they are excited to see are the numbers at the county level to see if the trends of the past couple of years and decades have continued. She says she is looking forward to seeing if the movement has continued to Iowa’s metropolitan areas, and if the rural areas have stabilized.
Iowa did gain 120,031 residents in the last decade to reach a total population of 3,046,355 people. The latest population data, maps, and charts for Iowa can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website at: 2010.census.gov.