Shrinking Kansas has lessons for Iola’s boosters


May 30, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Kansas west of I-35 continues to shrink. According to a study by Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research, there may be as many as four western Kansas counties with fewer than 1,000 residents by 2040.

The numbers seem to prove that Frank and Deborah Potter were on target in 1987 when they said that our semi-arid plains should be turned back to the buffalo. Their essay created a storm of indignation in Dodge and Topeka, too. Mike Hayden, who was governor at the time, was particularly upset and had uncomplimentary things to say about the Poppers’ scholarship. 

But with each succeeding census, rural Kansas continues to fade. Seventy-seven of the state’s 105 counties — including Allen and our neighbors — lost population in the last decade. And, the government’s counters recorded, the population of 41 counties peaked in 1910 or earlier and 28 counties haven’t recorded a population increase from one census to the next since 1940.

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