Kansas is on a demographic path that could limit its economic future, as well as its ability to maintain a four-member delegation in the U.S. House.
Recent headlines have highlighted some of the worrisome factors involved:
• “Kansas birth rate lowest in recorded history,” noting the state had 4.3 percent fewer births in 2013 than in 2012.
• “Kansas among top 10 states people moved from in 2014, moving company says,” which reported that 66 percent of United Van Lines customers leaving Kansas last year cited a new job or job transfer.
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• “Report: Fewer immigrants live illegally in Kansas,” which said 20,000 undocumented immigrants had left the state between 2009 and 2012.
Though many would see the decline in illegal immigrants as something to be praised, it reflects a diminished perception of Kansas as a land of opportunity. Other states recognize that immigrants are vital to their economic success in this century.
U.S. Census Bureau figures show that between 2010 and 2014, while the U.S. saw a 3.3 percent increase, population growth was 1.8 percent in Kansas, lagging Nebraska’s 3 percent, Oklahoma’s 3.4 percent and Colorado’s 6.5 percent. At this rate Kansas, which had eight U.S. House seats in 1910 and five until the 1990s, risks seeing its House delegation reduced to three, as Iowa’s was after the 2010 census.
Though Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts aren’t delivering promised job creation or population growth so far, nor providing sufficient revenues to pay for government services, he can be credited for his farsighted efforts to write a water plan, bolster technical education, and establish urban as well as rural opportunity zones.
If the solution is elusive, he and other leaders are correct in seeing the state in a race against time and population trends.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman