According to the national census data collected last year, the state of Kansas has seen a 6.1 percent increase in population and László Kulcsár, associate professor of sociology, is skeptical of whether or not having an additional 164,702 residents in the state is a positive scenario.
The problems he foresees are in the rural areas of the state.
A press release given on Kulcsár’s predictions stated that 70 percent of Kansas counties lost residents over the last ten years, and 23 of the total 105 counties lost over 10 percent of their population.
Kulcsár said this information isn’t very surprising.
“History has shown this [decline] already as these trends are not new,” Kulcsár said. “These [rural] areas have been losing population for the last 70 or 80 years, most of them won’t go anywhere soon.”
The growth Kansas is seeing is mainly coming from Johnson County and areas around Wichita and Riley, he said. The growth in these areas was expected.
“Johnson County is probably the richest county in Kansas, and it isn’t necessarily unique to Kansas that people want to live in these metropolitan areas,” Kulcsár said
The real problem is the contrast between a high volume of formerly rural, young Kansas residents moving to metro areas, and the older generations remaining.
“Usually young families about to establish households are extremely important to communities because they’re about to reach their prime consumption age,” Kulcsár said. “They make purchases in the community and pay taxes that support businesses, schools and community services.”
If these young residents move out of small communities, there is no room for the area to grow either economically or population wise.
“The population continues to age drastically, and this will fundamentally change Kansas,” Kulcsár said.
Riley County specifically has undergone a five to fifteen percent increase, which is typical for the county. The population of Riley depends on soldiers coming and going “and the type of students K-State wants to attract. Riley County’s population is fairly stable,” Kulcsár said.
Another notable change on the 2010 census in Kansas is the increase in diversity, mainly in the southwest areas of the state.
These specific areas see an increase in diversity over the years due to their large factories that attract migrant and refugee labor workers. These workers make up a large constituency of the counties in southwest Kansas.
While these regions, and counties like Johnson and Leavenworth, saw an increase in diversity, other areas saw virtually none, which “is the nature of a state like Kansas,” Kulcsár said. It is all about where the need and opportunities are.
Even though the numbers may not be what is best for Kansas, Kulcsár has more neutral opinions about the change.
“Kansas population trends are fairly stable to predict because the state doesn’t have many uncertainties as do fast-growing states such as Arizona,” he said, according to the press release. “Unlike other states, we have the opportunity to work on issues today to ensure we have a plan 10 years down the road.”
Kulcsár said that in the end, the numbers themselves are not all that shocking.
“The biggest surprise about the new census was that there was no surprise whatsoever,” he said.