Nebraska's annual population growth has nearly matched the U.S. growth rate for the first time in 50 years, largely due to a surge in births that continues despite the economic downturn, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Wednesday.
The growth should push the state population to the 1.8 million mark in the 2010 Census. The estimates also remove all doubt that the state will keep three seats in Congress for at least another decade.
The 3rd District seat that covers western Nebraska and is now represented by Republican Rep. Adrian Smith never was considered in serious jeopardy. But there was some concern that sluggish growth or population losses could put it at risk.
"We went from low danger to no danger," of losing the seat, said David Drozd, a researcher at the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The state's population increased by 14,670 people, or 0.82 percent, from mid-2008 to July of this year, according to the Census estimates. The U.S. growth rate for the same period was 0.86 percent.
That difference between the Nebraska growth rate and the U.S. growth rate was the narrowest since 1960 to 1961, according to the UNO public-affairs center.
Compared with other states, Nebraska's growth rate for the year was 24th highest and fared well compared with surrounding states.
Of the other states in the region, only South Dakota (0.98 percent growth) and North Dakota (0.85) had faster growth rates.
The relatively strong growth for Nebraska, however, did not change its overall population ranking of 38th in the country.
The trend of significantly more births than deaths in the state is expected to continue. While births are expected to peak in 2015 and the number of deaths is expected to rise slowly, estimates show there will continue to be more births than deaths for at least another two decades.
Drozd said the current rise in births is mainly due to the children of baby boomers having kids of their own. Also, the state has a large Hispanic population and those families tend to have more children, Drozd said.
The economy also could be a factor.
While Nebraska has experienced economic woes _ large manufacturers have closed and lawmakers have had to slash the state budget because tax revenues have fallen below projections _ the downturn has not been as severe as in other states.
The Census estimates that between mid-2008 and mid-2009, more people moved to Nebraska than moved out of the state for the first time this decade.