Yael T. Abouhalkah

New population figures reveal Omaha is catching Kansas City plus other distressing facts

Omaha’s world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo is home to the world’s largest desert dome.
Omaha’s world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo is home to the world’s largest desert dome. Courtesy of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Omaha Storm Chasers are the top minor league team for the Kansas City Royals. Face it: That’s how many Kansas Citians think of Omaha — as a stepping-stone city, at a tier below our “major league” status.

But as new U.S. Census Bureau estimates reveal, Omaha could surge past Kansas City in population in the next decade or even earlier.

Omaha is gaining about 6,000 people a year, and had an estimated population of 446,599 as of July 1, 2014.

Kansas City is adding people, too, but just 2,750 annually, and was at 470,800 residents last year.

The rise of Omaha compared to Kansas City is just one of the unsettling facts I found in the Census estimates released this month. The bureau revealed the growth rates for 714 U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 people or more, from the 2010 Census figures through July 1, 2014.

▪ Kansas City’s population increase of 2.4 percent since 2010 is the 38th lowest among the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Put simply, most other large cities are gaining residents even faster than Kansas City.

Austin tops the charts with a growth rate of 12.5 percent.

The rest of the top 10: New Orleans is at 11.8 percent; Denver at 10.6 percent; Charlotte at 10.1 percent; Seattle at 9.8 percent; Washington, D.C., and Fort Worth at 9.5 percent; Raleigh at 8.9 percent; Atlanta at 8.5 percent; and San Antonio at 8.2 percent.

▪ Other large cities that are gaining people faster than Kansas City — beyond those already mentioned — include the Midwestern cities of Oklahoma City at 7 percent; Minneapolis at 6.4 percent; Omaha at 5.5 percent; and Indianapolis at 3.5 percent.

▪ Take a look at the 11 large municipalities that reportedly are adding people at a slower rate than Kansas City, and it’s not exactly a list you’d like to see us on.

The slow growers include Philadelphia at 2.2 percent; Albuquerque at 2 percent; Wichita at 1.6 percent; Milwaukee at .8 percent; Memphis at .8 percent; Baltimore at .3 percent; Cleveland at -1.8 percent; and Detroit at -4.7 percent.

▪ Here’s the more positive news.

Kansas City is still the 37th largest city in the nation, unchanged from 2010.

It gained an estimated 11,013 people, up to a population of 470,800.

An extra 11,000 or so people is not bad. It indicates people are moving into the Northland, where Clay and Platte counties have shown strong population increases so far this decade. Downtown’s population has more than doubled in the last decade, though the city apparently is still losing people within the urban core overall south of the Missouri River.

Also, Kansas City is doing far better than St. Louis. It lost even more people — down to 317,419 — for a growth rate of -.6 percent.

To be clear, the addition of residents in Kansas City is worth noting.

It’s just not the clearly upbeat news that many of our peers and competitors are reporting.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.