Nebraska’s population in 2000 was 1,711,263, ranking it 38th among the states. From 1990 to 2000 the population increased by 8.4 percent. Nebraska has a population density of 9 persons per sq km (23 per sq mi). Most of the population is concentrated in the eastern one-quarter of the state and in a belt along the Platte and North Platte rivers.
The population of Nebraska is 89.6 percent white. Blacks, most of whom live in the Omaha metropolitan area, constitute 4 percent of the population, Asians 1.3 percent, Native Americans 0.9 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race 4.2 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 836. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 5.5 percent of the people. Much of the state’s population is descended from European immigrants who came to Nebraska in the late 19th century.
Germans, Czechs, Swedes, Danes, Irish, and Italians were especially numerous and often remain concentrated in close-knit communities today. The black population is found primarily in Omaha and Lincoln; Hispanics are mostly in the Platte River Valley and Omaha. Native Americans are concentrated in Omaha, and in Knox and Thurston counties.
In 1920 Nebraska was almost 70 percent rural, but by 1960 the majority had shifted. Currently 70 percent of Nebraskans are urban dwellers. People have been leaving rural areas because of the growing employment opportunities in towns and cities and due to economic pressures favoring larger, but fewer, farms.
Only two cities, Omaha and Lincoln, have been designated metropolitan areas in Nebraska. Together these areas contain more than one-half of the state’s population. The largest city, Omaha, with a 2006 population of 419,545 in the city proper, is Nebraska’s principal manufacturing center, and it also dominates the state’s retail and wholesale trade. The Omaha metropolitan area had a population of 822,549 in 2006, including people living around Council Bluffs in Iowa. Omaha contains a number of home and branch offices of the nation’s large insurance companies. Within a few miles of the city, at Offutt Air Force Base, is the center of operations of the United States Strategic Command.
Second in size is Lincoln, which had a population of 241,167 in 2006. Lincoln is the state capital and contains the University of Nebraska’s major campus and two other major colleges. Many insurance companies have home offices in the city, and for this reason, Lincoln has sometimes been called the Hartford of the Midwest. Grand Island, with 44,632 residents, is a railroad and distribution center for the surrounding agricultural area. Nebraska’s other principal cities and their 2006 populations are Bellevue, with 47,594 inhabitants; Kearney, with 29,385; Fremont, with 25,417; North Platte, with 24,386; and Hastings, with 25,144. "Nebraska" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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