What we learned from the 2010 Census and a few things to look forward to out of the 2020 Census.
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David Drozd is perhaps Nebraska’s leading census expert. He’s the research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; the center serves as Nebraska’s State Data Center in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.
Drozd cited a couple of important conclusions from the 2010 Census — both of which have ramifications for the new count.
Urban shift: The 2010 Census was the first time more than half of Nebraska’s population concentrated in its three largest counties. That’s a testament to the growth in the Omaha and Lincoln areas, but also to the losses in rural Nebraska.
That has one particularly important impact: After redistricting using the census numbers, more than half (25) of the districts in the 49-seat Nebraska Legislature were based in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy Counties.
After 2020, the shift will only grow. By today’s estimates, Drozd says the Big 3 counties could hold 27 seats after the next round of redistricting.
Rising diversity: Nebraska’s population rose to 18% people of color in 2010, up from 13% in 2000 and 7.5% in 1990, when the immigration wave into the state was just starting.
By 2020, the percentage could rise to 22% or 23%, Drozd says.
So in the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, Nebraska changed from a state with minorities being one in every 13 people to one in every five. It soon will register as close to one in four.
Issues to watch
Here are some issues we're watching and Drozd is looking out for in the 2020 figures.
Congressional redistricting: It looks like Nebraska is growing enough to keep its three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But how will the Nebraska Legislature draw the boundaries for those districts? Last time, it moved Offutt Air Force Base from the Omaha-based district to Lincoln’s district. In its place, lawmakers returned the growing western Sarpy County suburbs to Omaha’s 2nd Congressional District. The population numbers also will be our first read on the 2030 figures and the redistricting outlook 10 years out, Drozd said. Is Nebraska’s third seat at risk then?
Population milestones: How close is the Omaha metro area getting to 1 million people? Nebraska to 2 million?
Urban revival: We know Omaha has a lot of money and effort going into redeveloping urban Omaha. But is it paying off with a rise in urban residents? That has been a tough goal to achieve.
Home ownership: If you want a read on how many people are achieving the American Dream of owning a home, the decennial census can give you that. Other figures are showing a drop in the home ownership rate in Nebraska. Drozd said he expects numbers to be at a 50- to 60-year low, maybe at a rate not seen since the 1950 census for Douglas County.