Nebraska and Iowa are holding their own population-wise, according to the most recent U.S. Census estimates.
Both states saw their populations grow over a one-year period: Iowa grew by an estimated 15,377 people, while Nebraska grew by 13,166.
It was good, steady growth for both states — but especially for Nebraska, which continues to keep pace with the national average, said David Drozd, a demographer for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“It's a good number,” Drozd said.
As for Iowa, it may not be growing as fast as the national average, but that is nothing new. For more than two decades, the state's growth rate has lagged behind the nation, said Gary Krob, coordinator for the State Data Center in Iowa.
“We have experienced continual growth over the last 26 years, but at a much slower pace than the national average,” Krob said.
The numbers released Monday are population estimates for the latest year as of July 1, 2013. They are important for the states on several fronts. Most notably, they are used to divvy up dollars for numerous federal programs, including federal highway dollars.
Overall, U.S. population growth has slowed: a gain of 2.3 million people, or 0.72 percent.
It is the lowest rate in more than seven decades, and the trend is likely to continue, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
“The census projections to 2060 have us going down to half a percent because we're an older population, and aging populations don't grow so much,” Frey said. “If we have very sharp declines in growth, that takes a bite out of the economy.”
Nebraska grew by 0.71 percent, while Iowa grew by 0.5 percent.
Only two states lost people in the latest estimates: West Virginia and Maine. (Maine lost 199 people, while West Virginia lost about 2,400.)
While West Virginia lost people, Nebraska's population grew.
Nebraska climbed a single rung up the ladder to surpass West Virginia as the nation's 37th biggest state in the union, with 1,868,516 residents. This leap came earlier last year; West Virginia continues to struggle as that state's deaths exceed its births.
Iowa, with 3,090,416 people, continues to rank 30th.
The state with the fastest growth was North Dakota, the site of booming oil and gas development. It set the pace at 3.1 percent growth.
The new estimates did nothing to change the ranking among the nation's four most populous states. They remain California (38.3 million), Texas (26.4 million), New York (19.7 million) and Florida (19.6 million.)
The U.S. now has more than 316 million people.
Nebraska's most recent gain follows several years of strong growth. For many decades, Nebraska had lagged behind the national average, but that changed starting about 2009, according to Drozd.
“Traditionally, we've trailed the U.S. growth rate by a sizable margin, but we're virtually identical with the U.S. rate (now),” he said.
Drozd attributed Nebraska's strong population numbers to the fact that the state weathered the recent recession better than others.
He also said that if the trend line continues, Nebraska will be in a good position to keep all three of its congressional seats in the 2020 redistricting.
Every 10 years, seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are distributed among all 50 states based upon U.S. Census counts.
“We have to look at how the other states are changing too but, in general, if we continue to grow at the national rate, we should be able to keep the third seat in 2020,” Drozd said.
This report contains material from the New York Times.