Missouri, Kansas populations hold steady

Monday, June 6, 2011 | 10:24 a.m. CDT; updated 11:20 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 6, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While the Midwest as a whole has been losing population to southern and western states, Kansas and Missouri appear to be bucking that trend, with more people moving to Kansas and Missouri than are moving out, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The census shows that about 25,000 more people moved into Kansas and Missouri than moved away from 2008 to 2009. The Midwest lost 62,000 people during that same period. Missouri had a net gain of about 11,000 from other states in 2009 from 2008. Kansas gained about 13,600 people, according to The Kansas City Star.

"They're not states that are going to grow rapidly in large numbers, and they're not going to decline rapidly in large numbers," William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution told The Kansas City Star.

The data also show that more people are moving to Kansas and Missouri at a time when people seem a bit less mobile.

Nationwide, 3.5 percent of the population moved to a different county between 2009 and 2010, the lowest percentage since 1947-48, when the census started tracking how people move. In 1950-51, about 7.5 percent moved to a different county.

Experts blamed the slowdown on the mortgage crisis, high unemployment and young adults who want to move but can't afford to buy a new home.

"I think there's a pent-up demand for migration among these young folks," Frey said.

Laszlo Kulcsar, a demographer at Kansas State University, said migration patterns in Kansas are influenced partly by the health of meat-packing plants in the southwest corner of the state and their attraction to immigrants.

"When we think about migration we usually assume that people are coming from other states to Kansas and we tend to discount the international migration," Kulcsar said.

The other factor, Kulcsar said, is the growth of suburban areas like Johnson County, which grew by nearly 21 percent in the last decade.

Kulcsar said most of the gains in Kansas are concentrated in several counties near urban areas or in the southwest corner of the state, he said.

In Missouri, migration patterns differ by region, said Bill Elder, director of the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis at MU.

The areas of the state north of the Missouri River behave more like the rest of the Midwest in that they're losing population, he said. Areas south of the river reflect more of the growth patterns seen along the Gulf Coast extending up into Arkansas, he said.

Missouri saw big population gains in Camden County near Lake of the Ozarks as well as in Taney County, home of Branson and very near Table Rock Lake. Taney's population exploded by 30 percent in the last 10 years, while Camden's soared by 19 percent.

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