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Iowa's Suburbs Show Most Growth

The suburbs of Iowa are on the march; Ankeny has largest numeric gain in population in the state.

Suburbs in Iowa's metropolitan areas continue to account for most of the growth in Iowa's incorporated places in 2006, according to new population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Of the 40 cities with the largest population gains since the 2000 census, only Marquette and Spirit Lake are outside metropolitan areas.

According to Liesl Eathington, director of Iowa State University's Office of Social and Economic Trend Analysis, or SETA, as a group the cities and suburbs located in Iowa's 20 metropolitan counties grew by nearly 5.5%, adding 73,000 residents between 2000 and 2006. Unincorporated territory within Iowa's metropolitan regions gained 8,300 new residents.

Cities located outside of Iowa's metropolitan regions lost more than 20,000 residents for a 2.2% decline. Nearly half of this loss occurred in small cities of fewer than 2,500 residents. Unincorporated areas in nonmetropolitan Iowa lost more than 5,400 residents.

Beth Henning, coordinator of the State Data Center program in the State Library of Iowa, says that more than three out of four Iowans now live in incorporated places. One-third of Iowa's population lives in cities of 30,000 residents or more; one in six Iowans live in towns under 2,500.

Swelling suburbs ring Des Moines

The latest estimates show that Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb, had the largest numeric gain among Iowa cities, adding more than 11,000 residents since the 2000 census. Two other Des Moines suburbs, Urbandale and West Des Moines, rank second and third, posting gains of 7,907 and 6,804 respectively over six years. At the same time, three of Iowa's 10 core metropolitan cities - Des Moines, Sioux City, and Waterloo--have declined in population since the 2000 census.

The fastest growing city in Iowa is Maharishi Vedic City in Jefferson County, population 222, which has increased its population by 149% since it incorporated in 2001. Two other cities have more than doubled in size this decade. Waukee in Polk County has grown by 105% and Panorama Park in Scott County has grown by 104%. Seven of the 10 fastest growing cities have populations under 2,500.

The Census Bureau's latest estimates show that 277 cities gained population, 634 cities lost population, and 36 did not change between 2000 and 2006. Des Moines continues to be Iowa's largest city with an estimated population of 193,886; the smallest is LeRoy with an estimated population of 9. Littleport in Clayton County was dropped from the estimates this year due to its disincorporation in 2005.

Rural Iowa continues population decline

Populations of Iowa cities from 1850 to 2006 are on the State Library's Data Center Web site at The latest estimates don't change Iowa's total population estimate of 2,982,085 residents as of July 1, 2006.

The U.S. Census Bureau's Population Estimates Branch prepared the latest population estimates in partnership with the Federal-State Cooperative Program for Population Estimates. The State Library of Iowa is a member of the Cooperative Program. ISU's Office of SETA studies Iowa demographic trends in support of community and regional analysis.

Population estimates for cities are based on the housing unit method. Comparisons to Census 2000 reflect modifications to the Census 2000 population as documented in the Count Question Resolution program, updates from the Boundary and Annexation Survey, and geographic program revisions. Caution is urged in making year-to-year comparisons of population estimates. When the Census Bureau releases new population estimates for the current year, it also revises estimates for previous years in the decade.

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