Iowa State University

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Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Willis Goudy, Sociology, 515-294-6482

Nick Vanberkum, Sociology, 515-294-2179,

Dan Kuester, News Service, 515-294-0704,

Past, present and future look at numbers that shape our state

AMES, Iowa -- Too few workers. Too little diversity. Cities getting bigger. Towns getting smaller. Brain drain in every city. And we are all getting older.

Issues related to Iowa's population have been in the news recently, especially regarding numbers available for the workforce, movement into and out of the state, and the aging of the baby boomers.

These and other demographic trends are the subject of a book by Willis Goudy, an emeritus professor of sociology at Iowa State University. The book, titled "Iowa's Numbers: 150 Years of Decennial Census Data with a Glance to the Future," explores Iowa's ever-changing population.

"The book contains information on counties, incorporated places, and rural and urban dimensions of the population," said Goudy. "There is a chapter on households and families as well as data on aging, race and ethnicity, education, occupation, income, disability and housing."

Some trends noted are well known, such as the continuing influence of the baby boom on the state's population, especially now that boomers are beginning to retire.

Iowa also has a long history of having more residents aged 10-19 at one census than those 20-29 at the next one. That means young people have been moving out of the state for many years. Recently, this has been described in terms of a brain-drain, because many of those have left after completing advanced levels of education. This out-migration also has contributed to relatively little change in the number of families in this state.

As for a workforce shortage, in 2000, about 50,000 more males were employed than in 1940. In those same 60 years, 550,000 females entered the workforce. While the numbers of females and males in the labor force are approaching equality, census data on the occupations and incomes for females indicate these areas have continuing inequality.

To aid in understanding the 150 years of data, five 30-year periods are highlighted. Although each period has distinct characteristics, the rate of growth has slowed noticeably across them. In the final chapter, Goudy explores two possible sources of information for a sixth, 30-year period (2000-2030).

Goudy predicts two possible scenarios for Iowa's population. Iowa may grow at a modestly more rapid rate than it has the last several decades, or growth could slow and Iowa could experience a decline in total population toward the end of the 30 years.

The book is filled with numbers. They appear throughout the text, in graphics, and in tables. While it is possible to gain an overview of population trends in Iowa through the graphics alone, the text adds details explaining the information available in the census. The tables are provided for those who wish to delve more deeply into the trends. Each chapter concludes with a few points to consider regarding what has occurred in the history of this state or how recent trends could affect Iowa's future.

It is fitting that a book on 150 years of census data has been released during the year that ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Goudy, a long-time member of the faculty of the college, collaborated with others to produce many reports for the state and its counties and incorporated places based on census and other data. The new volume provides a data-based review of Iowa across 150 years of decennial census data with a glimpse of what may occur the next few decades. It is available for $35.00 (check payable to Iowa State University) through ISU's Department of Sociology (contact Renea Miller, Department of Sociology, 17 East Hall, Iowa State University, Ames IA 50011-1070; phone: 515-294-6482).


Book cover

Quick look

A new book, Iowa's Numbers: 150 Years of Decennial Census Data with a Glance to the Future, by ISU professor emeritus, Willis Goudy, highlights Iowa population issues and demographic trends.