Iowa holds seats in Congress, lags behind national average in 2020 U.S. Census

Census data shows 3.19 million live in Iowa as two-thirds of Iowa counties lost population
Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 11:24 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Take the 2020 data from the U.S. Census Bureau as mixed results for Iowa.

The population grew in the state from 3.04 million Iowans in 2010 to about 3.19 million in 2020. That’s 150,000 more people. At about 15,000 per year, that’s the equivalent of adding a North Liberty or a Newton each year.

Even with this, Iowa’s 4.8% growth from 2010 to 2020 was sharply behind the national average of 7.4%. Monday’s Census information showed the strongest growth in the south and western parts of the country at about 10%.

Charles Connerly, the director of the University of Iowa’s School of Planning and Public Affairs, watches population growth very closely.

“The cities that are growing population are, typically, in two or three geographical areas,” Connerly said, as two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties lost population from 2010 to 2020. “The Corridor, Des Moines. If we want to grow our population and get there faster than we are, we need to grow our cities faster. That’s what employers are saying in effect. They need more employees.”

Connerly notes that Iowa’s population is also growing through people who are non-white, an element that state agencies and the business environment also need to recognize.

“We have a decent economy,” Connerly said. “It’s agricultural and that requires fewer and fewer people as it becomes mechanized.”

Iowa’s challenge remains as trying to retain younger people who are highly educated. Connerly said that Des Moines is doing a “better job” of being an attractive option for workers coming out of college and pondering options in cities like Chicago or Minneapolis.

“If the economic opportunities aren’t nearby, they’ll go somewhere else,” Connerly said.

In the political realm, Iowa will retain its six seats in Congress. The 2010 census data took a seat away from Iowa. The 2012 elections were the first as Iowa dropped from five U.S. House seats to four. Iowa’s former 4th district was, essentially, chopped up as the state’s current districts are much more based on geography.

“I thought we were going to be safe this time since we lost a seat last time,” Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science professor, said.

Hagle pointed to 2030 as when Iowa may lose ground on population and fall to three U.S. House seats and, thus, five electoral votes. For context, New Mexico and Nebraska have five electoral votes.

“I don’t know that losing a seat would make that big a difference, but whether we still have the Iowa Caucuses,” Hagle said, on whether the state’s political influence would see an impact.

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