Government

Iowa City metro second-fastest growing in Iowa

New census data show Iowa is gaining people, but at a slower pace than the nation

Highway 965 in an aerial photograph in Coralville on Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Highway 965 in an aerial photograph in Coralville on Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Both the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids metro areas gained people since 2010, but Iowa City’s growth rate far outpaces that of its sister city.

The Iowa City metro, which includes Coralville and North Liberty, was the second-fastest growing in Iowa between July 2010 and July 2016, new Census numbers show.

Here’s some more information about Iowa from the new data:

Iowa’s total population has continued to rise so far this decade, hitting more than 3.13 million people in 2016.

Even so, the state’s growth rate lags behind that of the United States as a whole. The nation’s population grew by 4.5 percent from July 2010 to July 2016. Iowa’s grew only 2.8 percent.

The Des Moines metro claims the fastest growing population in Iowa. From 2010 to 2016, the central Iowa metro grew by 11 percent to more than 634,700 people.

The rate of change in Iowa City’s metro wasn’t far behind, however, as it saw population grow 10.4 percent to more than 168,800. Ames and the Omaha-Council Bluffs area grew 8.3 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.

The Cedar Rapids metro population rose by 3.6 percent to just under 267,800 people.

“We have four economies that are growing relatively rapidly and then you’ve got, right dead in the middle, Cedar Rapids, which is growing at just a little over half” the average metro growth rate, Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson said.

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Des Moines’ growth can be tied in part to Dallas County, which includes the western suburbs of Des Moines. When population changes are examined by county, Dallas County grew by 27.8 percent so far this decade. Johnson County took second place in that regard, with a 12 percent growth rate. And Linn County’s population grew by about 5 percent in that time period.

Although Iowa’s overall population has grown, the increase is largely concentrated in the state’s urban centers.

Only 26 of Iowa’s 99 counties saw their populations increase from 2010 to 2016, an analysis by Gary Krob of the State Data Center shows.

That leaves 73 Iowa counties having lost people so far this decade, continuing a trend Swenson said Iowa has seen since the 1980s.

“What we have is a subset of our metropolitan areas doing really well and then the majority of the next set of cities down are doing poorly,” he said. ‘These regional trade centers are struggling to hold onto their economic potency and their demographic base.”

More than half of Iowa’s population lives in just 10 counties, according to Krob’s analysis.

Of Iowa’s 3.13 million total, 51.8 percent reside in Polk, Linn, Scott, Johnson, Black Hawk, Woodbury, Story, Dubuque, Pottawattamie and Dallas counties. Each of these is part of an Iowa metro, Krob noted.

Business leaders in Iowa often have said they can’t fill open job positions due to a lack of qualified applicants. Part of that problem, some have said, is lackluster population growth, especially in rural areas.

The Census numbers released Thursday do not include population changes by specific cities.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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