Date of this Version


Document Type



QOL Series (2018) 3.

QOL Series (2018) 2.

A collaborative initiative involving the Rural Futures Institute, Nebraska Extension, Community and Regional Planning Program, Department of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Reaching One, Reaching All Interest Group.


Copyright 2018, the authors. Used by permission.

Jeong-Kyun Choi

Soo-Young Hong



Nebraska is a state that is not often viewed as affected significantly by mobility and migration. As a state, the net migration rate of 1.1 from 2015 to 2016 is fairly low compared to others like Florida (16.0) or Nevada (14.4). However, data from this report suggests that there is, in fact, substantial movement of people moving in and moving out; as well as pockets within the state where there is higher than average influx of both domestic and international migrants.

In general, migration trends in the state mirror national trends of “rural flight” where people are moving out of the rural counties and moving into suburban or metropolitan areas. In fact, 69 of the 93 counties had a negative net migration. This is most likely due to greater economic opportunities associated with urban areas (Harris & Todaro, 1970). However, the population leaving is being offset by international migrants who do come to suburban and rural counties (e.g., Colfax, Dakota, Dawson). Thus, overall the state net migration rate has been minimal with a slight increase. Below are other key points of this fact sheet.

• The foreign-born population is highest in the metropolitan counties, particularly in Douglas (48,909) and in Lancaster (21,888). However, the highest concentration of foreign-born is found in micropolitan areas with lower overall population (i.e., at least 10,000 but less than 50,000), such as Dakota, Dawson, and Hall. Most likely, specific industries (e.g., meatpacking plants, industrial plants) in these areas are attracting migrant workers. This is consistent with recent scholars’ recognition of the importance of micropolitan areas in economic and social revitalization of states (e.g., Cantrell, 2007).

• The maps of overall net migration rates and domestic migration rates are almost identical. This suggests that domestic migration accounts for much of the population change compared to international migration. Nonetheless, caution must be used in interpreting this pattern. In fact, it may seem that Nebraska has few international migrants. However, international migrants are counted as domestic migrants when they moved within the state in the last 12 months. Thus, it is important to note that the numbers of international migrants are not similar to the numbers of the foreign-born population.

• Counties with high numbers of international migrants, particularly the metropolitan areas in the southeast part of the state, also have high numbers of ethnic minorities (e.g., Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy). Although there are migrants from all over the world who come to Nebraska, the numbers suggest that most of the migrants identify as ‘ethnic minorities’ or non-White (see Population Distribution by Race, Ethnicity, and Age by Taylor et al., 2017).

• International migrants are a diverse group and come to Nebraska for different reasons, such as to work and/or to study. The numbers presented above also include refugees, individuals who have been forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Approximately 5,415 refugees from FY 2000 to FY 2010, and 818 refugees in FY 2010 settled in Nebraska. Additionally, as the census does not ask for immigration status, the migration rates and foreign-born population may also include undocumented immigrants, foreign-born individuals who do not have a legal right to live or remain in the country.

Overall, this report presents the migration rates and foreign-born population in Nebraska. Data and information in this report intend to inform policymakers and practitioners as they design guidelines and services that are sensitive to current migration trends and responsive to the characteristics of the population.