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When studying population change in Nebraska during the 2000s decade, it is clear that county level changes were far from uniform. While the state increased by about 115,000 people, only 24 of the state’s 93 counties experienced a population gain. Nearly 75% of Nebraska’s counties had a population decline during the decade, one of the largest such percentages of counties among all states in the Midwest and Great Plains areas of the United States. In fact, population gains were concentrated in Nebraska’s most populated “Big 3” counties of Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy, which increased by nearly 125,000 people, while the remaining 90 counties combined lost close to 10,000 residents.

Another way Nebraska counties showed differences in population change related to the levels of births and deaths. During the 2000s, slightly more than half of Nebraska’s counties (49 of 93) experienced a natural increase, as births exceeded deaths. However, nearly as many counties (44) had more deaths than births, a negative population change factor. Natural change levels tend to be fairly stable, as it takes a long time for an area’s population age structure to change. That said, almost all Nebraska counties are projected to see poorer natural change in the years ahead as the population ages and deaths increase as the large “baby boom” segment of the population hits ages that have higher mortality rates.

There are two easily-identifiable trends in Nebraska that are more consistent among its counties. First, nearly all counties are having net outmigration, where more people are moving out of the area than moving into it. Net outmigration occurred in 85% of Nebraska’s counties during the 2000s (79 of 93). The handful of counties experiencing net inmigration tended to be in the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas, or along the Interstate 80 corridor.

Second, the vast majority of counties are seeing minority populations rise, while at the same time non-Hispanic Whites, the majority population, are enduring population decline. During the 2000s, 80% of Nebraska’s counties (74 of 93) experienced a decrease in the non-Hispanic White population while simultaneously witnessing its minority population rise. This divergence is worthy of further exploration and is the subject of this report. In the report any mentions of Whites refer to non-Hispanic Whites, and the two terms will be used interchangeably.