Kansas City suburbs see uptick in population growth over past decade

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2020 Census Bureau population estimates for the Kansas City, Missouri metro area counties in Missouri. (Graphic by Brianna Lanham)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — New Census data shows the White alone population has declined by about 8.6% in the United States since 2010, though it still remains the largest race or ethnicity group in the nation and in Kansas City.

In 2020, about 204.3 million people living in the United States identified as White alone, while nearly 394,383 people identified as White alone in Jackson County, Missouri, roughly a 199.2% difference from the national figure. 

In 2010, the White alone population in Jackson County was 63.3%, but by 2020, it dropped to 58.5%.

Similar statistics are reflected in Johnson County, Kansas’s numbers. In Johnson County, the White alone population dropped by roughly 7.9%, from 82% in 2010 to 75.5% in 2020.

Cory Mihalik, statistical research consultant at the Missouri State Library, said population growth has been historically higher in urban areas, but the White alone population has always surpassed other race and ethnicity groups statistics.

What’s most interesting, he said, is data shows a nationwide trend of populations, of all demographics, beginning to move from rural to urban settings.

“Jackson County [Missouri] saw a population change of about 6.4%, whereas Platte County saw 19.5%, which is a significantly larger increase,” Milihak said. “They’ve [rural counties] largely had population drops, unless they were near some sort of city center, be that Springfield and Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City.”

Data suggests more people are moving to the urban core, or suburban areas that surround urban settings. In fact, metropolitan areas saw a 9% increase in population nationwide from 2010 to 2020, with 86% of the population living in U.S. metro regions in 2020, compared to 85% in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I don’t know if you should be worried so much about a growing population, so much as a slowly growing population,” Mihalik said, “because you do have the issues of needing a population overturn and to have a younger generation to take care of the older generations and take over the positions, and support that tax base, and provide those services as you go through.”

Jackson County, Missouri, maintains the highest population in the Kansas City region with 717,204 people.

The county saw nearly a 6.4% population growth, with Johnson County, Kansas, following close behind with 609,863 people in 2020, nearly a 15% difference from Jackson County’s population. 

“I think whenever you have sudden population growth like that, it can cause all sorts of issues, especially as that generation starts to age and take up more resources for medical costs and retirement benefits and things like that if you don’t have enough people to support them on the bottom end,” he said.

Milihak said the number of people who are of voting age has significantly increased in Kansas City as the number of people 18 and under decreased. This is true nationwide, as well.

“Pretty much, universally, all of the [Kansas City] counties that you were interested in had population growth amongst the over 18 population, but some of them had a pretty large decrease of the under 18 population, which actually meant their entire county population declined,” Milihak said. “Like Ray County [Missouri], over 18 went up 1.1% but the under 18 population actually went down by 9.2%, which meant their total population went down by 1.43%. That was just because there’s not as many children as there used to be.”

He said this could be cause for concern, but it’s too soon to tell.

“Pertaining back to the conversation we had at the beginning about, what does an increasing or decreasing population mean to your region and the country, as a whole?” he said. “I think that [voting age] may be something that will be a venture in going forward, as well, and something people will be interested in.”

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