County Characteristics Profile

Demographic Profile


Population statistics aid decision-makers by developing a broad picture of Red Willow County.  It is important for Red Willow County to understand where it has been and where it appears to be going.  Population is the driving force behind housing, local employment, economic, and fiscal stability of the County.  Historic population conditions assist in developing demographic projections, which assists in determining future housing, retail, medical, employment and educational needs within the County.  Projections provide an estimate for the County, which is a basis for future land use decisions.  However, population projections are only estimates and unforeseen factors may effect projections significantly.


Population Trends and Analysis

Table 1 indicates the population for Red Willow County, including both the incorporated and unincorporated areas, between 1970 and 2000.  This information provides Red Willow County with an understanding of past and present trends in population changes.


Table 1: Population Trends, Red Willow County & Communities, 1970 through 1998

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-1A, 1970, 1980, 1990 & 2000


Migration Analysis

By analyzing migration patterns, the County is able to understand how this specific factor of the population influences the rate of population change.  Migration rates are determined by the total change in population and are shown by subtracting any changes attributed to births and deaths in the population.  Therefore, migration is the portion of the population that has either moved into or out of the County.


Table 2 shows the total change and natural change in population, and the total migration for Red Willow County, by decade, from 1960 through 1999.  Natural change describes the portion of the population change that occurred as a result of births or deaths.  Natural change is determined by subtracting deaths from births.  A negative number indicates more deaths than births occurred, and a positive number indicates more births than deaths.  Once the natural change is subtracted from the total change, the County can identify the exact change due to migration.  A negative number in the “Net Migration” column indicates how many more persons moved out of the County (out-migration) than in, and a positive number indicates how many more persons moved into the County (in-migration), than out.


Table 2: Migration Analysis, Red Willow County, 1960 through 1999

Sources:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-1A, 1970, 1980, 1990, 1999 (estimate)

               Nebraska Health and Human Services, 2001


Table 2 indicates deaths exceed births in Red Willow County for each reporting period.  This is largely due to a decline in the number of births and an increase in deaths providing evidence of an aging population.  Based upon the formula, the primary contributor to Red Willow County’s declining population has been the natural change.  The largest occurrence of out-migration was between 1980 and 1990 when Red Willow County had a total change of -910 persons, deaths exceeded births by 644 persons and the net migration equaled –266 persons.  Between 1960 and 1999, Red Willow County had a net in-migration of 2,157 persons.


Age Structure

Age structure is an important component of population analysis.  Analysis of population age structure allows the County to identify significant changes in population over time.  By analyzing age structure, the County can determine which age groups within the County were having the largest affect on population change.  Age groups, called cohorts, affect the population in a number of ways.  For instance, young cohorts (20 to 44 years old) have a greater ability to sustain future growth since females in these cohorts are able to bear children.


However, in rural areas, cohorts from 15 to 24 years old may decrease at a high rate due to these individuals leaving the County for college in larger, urban areas.  Table 3 shows the age composition for Red Willow County in 1980 and 1990.


Table 3: Age Structure Characteristics, Red Willow County, 1980 and 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-1A, 1980, 1990


Table 3 shows two different methods for analyzing age structure composition.  The first method, labeled “Net Change,” compares the size of one cohort over time.  This method simply subtracts the 1980 population from the 1990 population to show how a particular cohort changed.  The second method, labeled “Cohort Change,” compares one group of population over time.  This method takes a 1980 cohort, then tracks the same group of population ten years into the future to show how that particular group of population changed.  In essence, the first method compares one group of population to a different group over time, while the second method compares one group of population to itself over time.


Net Change between 1980 and 1990

Table 3 shows there were six (6) cohorts that had a net increase in size between 1980 and 1990.  These were the 5-9, 10-14, 30-34, 35-44, 75-84 and the 85 and over cohorts.  All of these cohorts showed insignificant increases when compared to the cohorts that lost population. 


Cohort Change between 1980 and 1990

Table 3 shows that the largest cohort decrease was in the 75 and over (1980) sector to the 85 and over (1990) sector which equaled a 592 person loss or a 24.6% total change from 1980 to 1990.  The second largest cohort was the 15 to 19 (1980) sector and the 25 to 29 (1990) sector with a loss of 437 person or 18.2% of the total losses.  This cohort likely changed due to the “brain drain” notion of younger persons moving to more urban areas to pursue secondary educational and employment opportunities. 


These cohorts decreased in size between 1980 and 1990:

1980 Cohort         Population                             1990 Cohort         Population                             Change

0 to 4               994                              10 to 14                       920                              -  74 persons

5 to 9               928                              15 to 19                       872                              -  56 persons

10 to 14                       846                              20 to 24                       582                              - 264 persons

15 to 19                       1,234                           25 to 29                       797                              - 437 persons

25 to 34                       1757                            35 to 44                       1532                            - 225 persons

45 to 54                       1342                            55 to 64                       1201                            - 141 persons

55 to 64                       1259                            65 to 74                       1063                            - 196 persons

65 to 74                       1087                            75 to 84                       668                              - 419 persons

75 and over      867                              85 and over      275                              - 592 persons

Total Change                                                                                                                                        -2404 persons


The above display shows the population of Red Willow County in 1980 through 1990 was continually decreasing among the cohorts.  The cohorts had losses ranging from 74 to 592 persons.


According to the Migration Analysis in Table 2, population loss in Red Willow County has historically been largely due to deaths exceeding births.  Migration has generally been in-migration, except for the migration of the last two decades. 


Population Projections

Population projections allow Red Willow County to project what the population may be in future years.  Projections are based upon past and present trends; therefore, they are subject to various factors.  Demographic composition, economic trends, and social issues are all examples of factors affecting population projections either positively or negatively.  Presented here are five common projection methods for future population.  At the time of this Comprehensive Development Plan, these projections are the best method Red Willow County has for predicting future population changes.


Trend Line Analysis

The Trend Line Analysis is a method of projecting future populations based upon changes during a specified period of time.  In this analysis, three different trend lines were analyzed including: 1960 to 2000 (estimate), 1980 to 2000 (estimate), and 1990 to 2000 (estimate). The three trend lines indicate Red Willow County population will continue to decline.  The reason for the difference in each trend line is that each projection is based upon a specific time period.  Each time period has its own trend, exhibiting that Red Willow County’s population will decline through the planning period.


Year                       1960 to 2000                        1980 to 2000                        1990 to 2000

2000                11,118 persons                        10,918 persons                       10,332 persons

2010                10,798 persons                        10,413 persons                       10,054 persons

2020                10,486 persons                           9,932 persons                         8,967 persons


Cohort Survival Analysis

The Cohort Survival Analysis is a method of projecting future population based upon changes within different age groups and sexes.  The population of the different age groups is projected forward by decade and adjusted using survival rates for each of the age groups.  This analysis includes average birth and death rates in the future projections.  Based upon this analysis, the population of Red Willow County is projected to increase within the planning period and continue to increase as it moves beyond 2020.


Year                       Cohort Survival Projection

2000                11,545 persons

2010                12,531 persons

2020                13,897 persons


Bureau of Business Research (BBR)

The Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has developed their own method of analyzing future population projections.  Their findings are published on a yearly basis and are presented here for comparison.  The BBR research indicates the population of Red Willow County will increase slightly through the year 2020.


Year                       BBR Projection

2000                11,417 persons

2010                11,644 persons

2020                        11,926 persons


Summary of Population Projections

There are numerous methods used to project the future population of a County.  Each approach attempts to account for a number of variables that impact population change.  The projection scenarios presented in this Plan are commonly used methods.  Figure 1 shows a summary of the main population projections presented in this Plan as well as the historical population since 1900.  The three projections are labeled Low Series, Medium Series, and High Series.  The summary, and the labels used, are merely for comparison and should not be used to evaluate the possibility that one method may be more accurate than another may.


Low Series (1960 to 2000)                        Medium Series (BBR)                                High Series (Cohort)

Year       Projection                                   Year        Projection                                     Year       Projection

2000        11,118 persons                              2000        11,417 persons                              2000        11,545 persons

2010        10,798 persons                              2010        11,644 persons                              2010        12,531 persons

2020        10,486 persons                              2020        11,926 persons                              2020        13,897 persons


Figure 1: Population Trends and Projections, Red Willow County, 1900 through 2020

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, 1900 through 1990, 1998 (Census Estimate Program)


Figure 1 shows the population history of Red Willow County between 1900 and 1998 and identifies three population projection scenarios into the years 2000, 2010, and 2020.  Figure 1 indicates the peak population for Red Willow County occurred in 1930 with 13,859 people.  The population immediately declined slightly in 1940 and then maintained until leveling off at a small decrease in 1998.  These changes are likely the result of changes in technology and agricultural markets over this duration of time.


As stated previously, these projections are based upon data from past trends and present conditions.  A number of external and internal demographic, economic and social factors may affect these population forecasts.  Red Willow County should monitor population trends, size and composition periodically in order to understand the direction in which the community is heading.  Red Willow County’s greatest population threat continues to be out-migration and strategies should be developed to further examine and prevent this trend.


Housing Profile


The Housing Profile in this Plan identifies existing housing characteristics and projected housing needs for residents of Red Willow County.  The primary goal of a housing profile is to allow the County to determine the necessary steps to provide safe, decent, sanitary and affordable housing for every family and individual residing within Red Willow County.  The housing profile for Red Willow County provides an analysis that aids in determining the composition of owner-occupied and renter-occupied housing units and the existence of vacant housing units.  It is also important to evaluate information on the value of owner-occupied housing units and monthly rents for renter-occupied housing units, to determine if housing costs are a financial burden to Red Willow County residents.


To project future housing needs, several factors must be considered. These factors include: population change, household income, employment rates, land use patterns, and residents' attitudes. The following tables and figures will provide the information, which will aid in determining future housing needs and will direct policies designed to accomplish the housing goals for Red Willow County.


Age of Existing Housing Stock

The age of Red Willow County’s housing stock can reveal a great deal about population and economic conditions of the past.  The age of housing stock can also indicate a need for a rehabilitation program and construction of new housing units.  Examining the housing stock is important to understanding the housing quality in Red Willow County, which is a factor in the quality of life.  Figure 2 displays the age of the existing housing stock in Red Willow County.


Figure 2:  Age of Existing Housing Stock; Red Willow County, 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF 3A, 1990

Figure 2 indicates 1,825 or 34.6% of Red Willow County’s 5,279 housing units were constructed prior to 1940.  In addition, there were 3,160 homes, or 59.9% constructed prior to 1960.  There were 890 or 16.9% constructed between 1970 and 1979, which indicates an economic boom and also relates to an increase in the county’s population.  Red Willow County has predominance to older housing units (i.e., pre 1950) and this may indicate a need for a housing rehabilitation program to improve the quality and energy efficiency of older housing stock.  Additionally, demolition of units that are beyond rehabilitation may be required.  Where cost becomes a factor for homeowners, the county may want to become an active partner, through the sponsorship of certain grant programs, to aid in this rehabilitation.  The predominance of housing units built prior to 1940 may indicate a need in Red Willow County for a rehabilitation program that improves the quality and energy efficiency of these older housing units.  There may be units too dilapidated to be repaired from an economic standpoint.  In these cases, it may be necessary to demolish the structure.  Both of these programs could be part of a larger overall effort to support the construction of new homes in the County.  The ability to provide quality housing can be an integral part of the County’s ability to pursue economic development activities.


Housing Trends

The housing stock of Red Willow County was reviewed to determine various housing trends.  An analysis of housing trends reveals a great deal about different sectors of the population.  Housing trends may indicate the potential demand for additional owner- and renter-occupied housing, as well as potential demand for single- and multiple-family housing.  Table 4 shows housing trend information for Red Willow County through 1990.


Table 4:  Housing Trends, Red Willow County, 1980 through 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF 1A, 1980, 1990


Table 4 shows that, between 1980 and 1990, the household population decreased by 24.7% from 15,295 to 11,511;  persons residing in group quarters increased between 1980 to 1990 from 332 to 388 or 16.9%.  In addition, the number of persons per household decreased by 22.7% from 3.26 to 2.52.  This has been a typical trend in the Great Plains Region as well as the entire United States.  Declining household size is a national trend and can be anticipated to impact Red Willow County into the future, since there is a high probability household sizes will continue to decline.  However, the exact impact of this decline is yet to be determined.


In 1980, there were 4,795 occupied housing units.  By 1990, there were 4,723 occupied housing units or a decrease of 72 occupied or 1.5% units from 1980.  The number of vacant housing units increased from 508 to 585 units between 1980 and 1990.  The change in housing units, by type, between 1980 and 1990 displays interesting trends in which the number of single family units decreased from 4,035 to 4027 units.  Duplex and multi-family units declined in Red Willow County by 15.4% from 844 in 1980 to 714 in 1990.  Finally, mobile homes, trailers, and other forms of housing increased by 26.9% during this same time period.  This points to a potential trend of transition from the typical single family units and duplex/multifamily units to mobile homes and trailers. 


Median monthly contract rent in Red Willow County increased from $176 in 1980 to $215 in 1990 and represents an increase of 52.7%, while the State’s median monthly contract rent increased 104.7% during the same time period.  Comparing the changes in monthly rents between 1980 and 1990 with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) enables the local housing market to be compared to national economic conditions.  Inflation between 1980 and 1990 totaled 60.7%, indicating Red Willow County rents increased at a lower rate than the rate of inflation.  Thus, Red Willow County tenants were paying less monthly rents in 1990, in real dollars, than they were in 1980.


Median value of owner-occupied units in Red Willow County increased from $38,300 in 1980 to $39,000 in 1990 and represents a change of 1.8%, while the State’s median value of owner-occupied housing units increased 31.6%.  Between 1980 and 1990, housing values in Red Willow County increased in value by 1.8% when compared to inflation as a whole.  This represents an overall housing stock that is valued in 1990 higher than it was in 1980.


Table 5 examines the housing composition by number of persons per household and age of the primary householder. 


Table 5: Tenure of Household by Housing Characteristics, Red Willow County,

1980 to 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF 1A, 1980, 1990


Table 5 exhibits tenure (owner-occupied and renter-occupied) of households by number and age of persons in each housing unit.  Red Willow County is comprised of a majority of one- and two-person(s) households, with 62.8% of total owner-occupied and 66.6% of the total renter-occupied.  These smaller household sizes are expected to continue and typically represent elderly households.  Tenure (owner-occupied unit or renter-occupied unit), by age, indicates that 52.2% of owner-occupied units were more varied, with a range of ages comprising the rental market.  However, the age cohorts of 25 to 44 years old occupied 48.2% of renter-occupied units.


Housing Condition

The conditions of housing units in Red Willow County were reviewed to determine the approximate number of housing units considered substandard.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines substandard housing as “housing units” that are overcrowded or lack complete plumbing facilities.  Overcrowding means there was more than one person, per room, residing in a unit.  Complete plumbing facilities are defined as hot and cold piped water, a bathtub or shower, and a flush toilet.  Table 6 shows the percentage of substandard units for Red Willow County.

Table 6:  Housing Condition, Red Willow County, 1980 and 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-3A, 1980, 1990


Table 6 indicates the changes in housing conditions and inventory of substandard housing for Red Willow County between 1980 and 1990.  During this decade, Red Willow County lost 72 units over which averages a loss of 7 units per year.  Housing units lacking complete plumbing or are overcrowded (more than 1.01 persons or more per room) represent the minimum amount of substandard housing units in a community.  In Red Willow County for 1990, 81 housing units (1.5%) of 5,279 were considered substandard.  Compared to the State of Nebraska (2.4%) and the United States (4.5%), Red Willow County had less substandard housing, as a percentage than both the state and national averages. 


The data in Table 6 can assist in determining the number of housing units that could be targeted for renovation or rehabilitation.  However, these data do not include housing units that are substandard due to housing code violations or other problems.  Once a complete analysis has been finished, the County would be in a position to potentially develop a housing program to target these homes and assist owners in renovating and improving the substandard units.  This is one example of what could be done to improve the quality of life for all Red Willow County residents.


Summary of Housing Profile

The ability to provide affordable, safe housing is an integral aspect of economic development.  The housing stock in Red Willow County is generally in good condition and should be a positive factor in future economic development.  Generally speaking, the number of housing units, by occupancy, is relatively close to national averages.  The United States Census Bureau recently published national housing statistics in a report titled “Housing Survey 2000.”  While 2000 data for Red Willow County is not yet available, it can be assumed the figures for Red Willow County in 1990 will be relatively similar to 2000 figures.  Based upon that assumption, Red Willow County in 1990 will be relatively similar to 2000 figures.


When comparing Red Willow County to the United States, data show Red Willow County has more housing occupied by owners than the United States as a whole.  Red Willow County also has more of its housing occupied by renters.  This means that Red Willow County has less vacant housing than the United States as a whole.


The standard vacancy rate used in the housing industry is 5.0%.  At a 5.0% vacancy rate, a community is generally supplying enough extra housing to allow new and current residents to have a choice in the neighborhood and price range of home.  However, there are too few units to allow for deterioration during long periods of non-use.  Red Willow County’s vacancy rate appears to be in-line with industry standards.  There are not necessarily standard rates for owners and renters, or even for single- and multi-family housing due to the various social and economic factors that drive supply in these categories; these factors change from community to community.


Economy and Employment Profile


Economic data are collected in order to understand area markets, changes in economic activity and employment needs and opportunities within Red Willow County.  In this section, employment by industry, household income statistics, and basic/non-basic analyses were reviewed for Red Willow County, and the State of Nebraska.


Income Statistics

Income statistics are important data in determining the earning power of households in a County.  These data review household income levels in comparison to the State.  In addition, these data sets were reviewed to determine whether households were exhibiting income increases at a rate comparable to that found within the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Table 7:  Household Income, Red Willow County, 1980 and 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-3A, 1980, 1990


Table 7 indicates the number of households in each income range in Red Willow County for 1980 and 1990.  In 1980, the household income range most commonly reported was $15,000 to $24,999, $5,000 to $9,999, and then $10,000 to $14,999.  In 1980, household incomes between $35,000 and $49,999 and above $50,000 per annum consisted of only 474 households or 10.0% combined or 7.0% and 3.0% respectively.  In 1980, the median household income was $15,925 for Red Willow County.


Household incomes in Red Willow County increased between 1980 and 1990.  Most of the change was attributed to households moving into the $35,000 to $49,999 and $50,000 and above income ranges, which consisted of 10.0% and 26.5% of households, respectively.  This represents almost a doubling in one income range and a nearly four-fold change in the other income range.  This change is important, especially at a time when the agricultural economy was in a state of fluctuation.  In 1990, the median household income was $26,016 or an increase of 61% from 1980.  The CPI for the same period was 60.7%, which indicating incomes in Red Willow County only slightly exceeded inflation, therefore, households were earning slightly more in real dollars in 1990 than in 1980.


Table 8: Household Income by Age (55 Years and Older), Red Willow County, 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-3A, 1990

Table 8 indicates household income for Red Willow County householders aged 55 years and over in 1990.  The purpose for this information is to determine the income level of Red Willow County’s senior households.  Table 8 indicates 2,673 senior households or 57% of the total senior population had incomes of less than $25,000 per year.  In Red Willow County, 1,485 senior households or 31.7% of the total senior population had incomes less than $15,000 per year.  This information indicates many senior households could be eligible or are presently on housing assistance.  The number of senior households should continue to grow and fixed income households may be required to provide their entire housing needs for a longer period of time.  However, fixed incomes for seniors tend to decline in real dollars at a faster rate than any other segment of the population, when compared with the rate of inflation.


The last two columns of Table 8 indicate the total number of households in each income level and the proportion of households’ age 55 years and older to the total.  Note that within the income levels of less than $15,000, 11.3% of total households were over the age of 55.  These data point to a younger homeowner population and variances in incomes in the county.


Income and Housing

The relationship between income and housing is an important factor used by a County to provide safe, decent, sanitary and affordable housing for all households and individuals.  Red Willow County should look at developing and implementing a set of housing goals when making decisions regarding future developments.  Specifically, Red Willow County should develop a list of policies that are based on the following factors:

§         Red Willow County should assist the elderly populations by ensuring policies are developed that permit and encourage the continued support of services that aid in the quality of life for elderly residents.

§         Red Willow County should continue to play an important role in the development of affordable housing options for all residents through appropriate land-use policies.


Table 9:  Housing Costs as a Percentage of Household Income, Red Willow County, 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-3A, 1990


Table 9 shows owner-occupied and renter-occupied housing costs as a percentage of householder income in 1990.  In addition, the Table estimates the number of households experiencing a housing cost burden.  A housing cost burden is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as the extent to which gross housing costs, including utility costs, exceeds 30% of gross household income, based on data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Renter occupied households had 22.7% of the renters experiencing a housing cost burden in Red Willow County.  However, owner-occupied households had 13.8% of the total owner units experiencing a housing cost burden.  Overall, in 1990, 621 households or 16.8% of the households in Red Willow County experienced a housing cost burden.


Table 10:  Income by Source, Red Willow County, 1970 to 1997

Source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, 1997

Income Source and Public Assistance

Personal income by source, for Red Willow County residents, is shown in Table 10.  Between 1970 and 1997 total income and per capita income exhibited continued growth in the non-farm income sector.  However, the farm sector experienced considerable fluctuation in income through this time period.  Non-farm income increased from $40,275,000 in 1970 to $222,739,000 in 1998 or 453.0%.  Farm income decreased from $4,468,000  in 1970 to $4,417,000 in 1998 or –1.1%.


The per capita income in the county increased from $3,463 in 1970 to $19,984 in 1998, an increase of 477.1%.  All of the income characteristics exceeded the CPI of 313.7% for the 1970 to 1998 time period, except farm income.  With the total personal income exceeding the CPI, the average person in Red Willow County was earning more in 1998 than in 1970 in real dollars.


Table 11: Transfer Payments, Red Willow County and Nebraska, 1970 to 1998

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, 1999

(L):  Less than $50,000, but estimates for this item are included in the totals.

(A): Absence of information


Table 12 indicates Transfer Payments to individuals in Red Willow County from 1970 to 1998.  Total transfer payments between 1970 and 1998 exhibited an increase between each reporting period.  Specifically, government payments, retirement and disability insurance benefits and medical payments comprised the majority of total transfer payments.  The trend for transfer payments per capita between 1970 and 1998 indicates payments increased significantly to individuals in Red Willow County.  More importantly, transfer payments, as a proportion of per capita income, has steadily become more significant between 1970 and 1998.  In 1970, transfer payments comprised 9.5% of total per capita income and in 1998 it increased to 14.8%.


Employment by Industry

Analyzing employment by industry allows the County to understand which occupations are the most influential components of its labor force.  This section indicates the types of industry that comprise the local surrounding economy.  Table 12 indicates employment size by industry for Red Willow County and the State of Nebraska between 1980 and 1997.  Between 1980 and 1997, Red Willow County had an array of changes regarding employed persons.  Overall, the workforce in Red Willow County declined by 2,952 positions or –40.9% between 1980 and 1997, while the State of Nebraska had a decrease of 105,076 positions or a decrease of 12.0%.


Table 12:  Employment by Industry, Red Willow County and Nebraska, 1980 and 1990

Source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, 1999

(D):  Data withheld to avoid disclosure of confidential information, estimates included in totals.

(L):  Less than ten jobs, estimates included in totals.

(NA):  Calculation is not available due to limitations in data.

Those sectors that lost employment are indicated below

§         Construction                                                                 -11 jobs or -2.5%

§         Manufacturing                                                             -418 jobs or -45.9%

§         Transportation and Public Utilities                           -217 jobs or -44.7%

§         Wholesale Trade                                                          -11 jobs or -2.1%


The greatest number of jobs lost was within manufacturing.  Manufacturing had a total change of 418 jobs or approximately one in every ten.  However, the greatest percentage of jobs lost was within the transportation and public utilities sector, at –44.7%. 


Increases in employment positions occurred in the following industry categories:

§         Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Mining              +76 jobs or 39.0%

§         Retail Trade                                                                   +222 jobs or 14.9%

§         Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate                         +82 jobs or 22.5%

§         Services                                                                         +564 jobs or 49.8%

§         Government                                                                  +1,513 jobs or 85.0%


Changes within Red Willow County are reflective of the move nationally for more service-related industries.  Red Willow County, together with their economic development partners, need to identify community assets and market the County to businesses looking to relocate, establish new operations, or assist existing businesses in expanding their scope of activity.  This may become more probable as telecommuting and technology continue to improve and become more assessable to rural communities.


Commuter Trends

Table 13 shows commuter characteristics for residents of Red Willow County.  Table 13 indicates the commuter population of Red Willow County fluctuated between 1960 and 1990.  The trend seen between 1960 and 1990 indicates the workforce employed in Red Willow County declined, while the workforce population increased.  The commuter traffic out of Red Willow County was well dispersed to other counties in the same geographic area.  However, the counties that saw the greatest amount of Red Willow County residents’ commute were undetermined areas, Buffalo and Furnas Counties.  Overall, Red Willow County saw the commuter population increase from 4.4% in 1960 to 5.1% for 1990.

Table 13: Commuter Population Trends, Red Willow County, 1960 to 1990

Source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, 1999


Regional Basic/Non-Basic Analysis

Analysis of basic and non-basic occupations assists the County in determining which categories were generating revenue within the local economy.  The U.S. Census Bureau has established six occupation categories that evaluate trends in local employment by occupation and the local economy.  Basic and Non-Basic employment are defined as follows:


§         Basic employment is business activity providing services primarily outside the area through the sale of goods and services, the revenues of which are directed to the local area in the form of wages and payments to local suppliers.

§         Non-Basic employment is business activity providing services primarily within the area through the sale of goods and services, the revenues of which re-circulate within the community in the form of wages and expenditures by local citizens.


This analysis will assist the County in understanding which businesses are exporting goods and services outside the local area, thereby importing dollars into the local economy.  The six occupation categories are:

§         Managerial and Professional

§         Technical, Sales, and Administrative

§         Services

§         Farming, Forestry, and Fishing

§         Precision, Production, Craft, and Repair

§         Operators, Fabricators, and Laborers


Table 14:  Basic/Non-Basic Employment by Occupation, Red Willow County, 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-3A, 1990


Table 14 indicates the work sector, the percent of basic employment, the percent of non-basic employment and the percent of the State workforce percentage in each occupational area.  Subtraction of the State’s workforce in a particular occupation from Red Willow County’s workforce percentage for the same occupation determines which occupations are basic or non-basic.  The local occupations having a lower percentage than the State would be considered non-basic.  Table 14 indicates the occupation(s) which are basic or non-basic in relation to the production of goods and services.  In Red Willow County, technical, sales and administrative occupations had the largest basic employment, meaning goods and services from these occupations were exported to outside markets and in turn, generated an infusion of dollars into the local economy.  An additional sector having high basic employment was managerial and professional occupations.


The economic base multiplier for Red Willow County is 12.3 meaning that 12.3 non-basic jobs are supported for every one (1) basic job in Red Willow County.  Therefore, every time Red Willow County loses a job in a, per say, technical, sales and/or administrative sector (basic occupations), then 12.3 non-basic jobs are impacted.  Ways to accentuate these basic jobs would be to diversify the employment base even more by attracting basic related jobs into the County in other occupation areas and work towards more balanced employment.


Table 15:  Regional and State Labor Force Comparisons, Red Willow County, 1990

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing, STF-3A, 1990


Table 15 indicates the percentage employment by occupational categories for residents of Red Willow County, Nebraska and surrounding counties in 1990.  Comparisons with surrounding counties indicates that Red Willow County has a higher labor force employed in the operators, fabricators and laborers sector of occupations (18.8%) than the surrounding counties, whom range from 11.6% to 15.8%.  The farming, forestry and fishing sector as well as the service sector exhibited a slightly smaller labor force composition for Red Willow County than surrounding counties.  Additionally, Red Willow County experienced similar compositions of occupations through the managerial and professional, the technical, sales and administrative and the precision, craft and repair sectors of occupations when compared with surrounding counties.


Summary of Economy and Employment Profile

The economic and employment profile of Red Willow County is similar to many Midwestern rural counties.  In 1980, the median household income in Red Willow County was $15,925, but was less than the State of Nebraska and the United States at $27,930 and $28,220 respectively.  By 1990, Red Willow County had increased its household income to $26,016 while the State of Nebraska had decreased to $25,520 and the United States increased to $30,056.  The larger proportionate increase for Red Willow County was likely due to its increased reliance on non-farm employment.  In  1997, employment in services and retail trade accounted for 41.7% of all jobs in Red Willow County, but the economy remains very much non-basic.


In 1990, Red Willow County had 76.3% of all households earning less than $24,999, while only 3.0% earned greater than $50,000.  Furthermore, 21.3% of all households earning less than $24,999 were age 55 or over and only 4.2% earning over $50,000 were age 55 or over.


A housing cost burden affected many Red Willow County residents in 1990.  A housing cost burden occurs when a household must spend more than 30% of its income on housing costs, including utilities.  In 1990, 16.8% of all Red Willow County households experienced such a burden.  That percentage included 13.8% of all owner-occupied households and 22.7% of all renter-occupied households.  However, most of each occupancy group were in the lower income ranges.


Agricultural Profile


The agricultural profile enables the County to evaluate the influence the agricultural industry has on the local economy.  Since most Nebraska counties were formed around agriculture, this industry has been the backbone of many local economies.  The U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Agriculture, collects agricultural data every five years.  Since this frequency does not coincide with the decennial census of Population and Housing, comparisons of the two censuses are difficult.


Table 16:  Agricultural Profile, Red Willow County, 1982 to 1997

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Agriculture, 1982 to 1997


Table 16 identifies key components of Red Willow County’s agricultural profile.  The table indicates the number of farms within Red Willow County have decreased from 1982 to 1997 by 36 farms, due to the constant varying nature of the agricultural economy.  The average size of farms (acres) increased between 1982 and 1997 from 922 acres in 1982 to 996 acres in 1997.  The average value of farms fluctuated between $614,112 in 1982 and $578,485 in 1997 with an eventual decrease in estimated market value of farm (per farm) values by 1997.  These are the trends for rural counties in Nebraska; particularly those located along the southern tier of counties bordering Kansas.  


Table 17:  Number of Farms by Size, Red Willow County, 1982 to 1997

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Agriculture, 1982 to 1997

The sizes of farms, in acres, are indicated in Table 17 for 1982 to 1997.  In general, the information suggests smaller farm sizes are declining in number, while farms are becoming more consolidated, thus showing a declining number of farms.


Table 18: Number of Farms and Livestock by Type, Red Willow County, 1982 to 1997

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Agriculture, 1982 to 1997

(D):  Data withheld to avoid disclosure.;  (NA):  Calculation is not available due to limitations in data.


Table 18 indicates the number of farms and livestock by type for Red Willow County between 1982 and 1997.  The predominant livestock utilized for agricultural purposes in Red Willow County were cattle and calves.  Cattle operations have been the primary type of livestock operation seen in Red Willow County.  Between 1982 and 1997, selected cattle ranching indicators reveal a decline in the number of farms, but an increase in number of cattle.  The remaining livestock operations show a decline in the number of farms and total livestock of hogs and pigs, beef cows, dairy cows and chickens.  Average livestock numbers, per farm, were calculated for each animal and the results indicate that all categories increased or stayed relatively the same as the number decreased.  

Table 19: Number of Farms and Crops by Type

Red Willow County, 1982 to 1997

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Agriculture, 1982,to 1997

(D):  Data withheld to avoid disclosure;  (NA):  Calculation is not available due to limitations in data.


Table 19 displays the number of farms and crops, by type, for Red Willow County between 1982 and 1997.  According to Table 19, in 1982, the prevalent use of land for crop production was corn for grain.  Wheat was the second most common crop grown, while sorghum was third.  These figures suggest that there is a tendency toward production to support cattle operations throughout the county.  The trend between 1982 and 1997 displayed a shift from all production crops that included oats and sorghum to the production of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.


Summary of Agriculture Profile

The number of farms and number of acres in farms in Red Willow County decreased between 1987 and 1997, but increased between 1982 and 1987.  Overall, the total number of acres in farms in 1997 was more than in 1982, while the average value of farms in 1997 was over $578,000.  This was a 5.8% decrease over the 1982 values.  The largest numbers of livestock produced were cattle and calves and the most grown crop was corn for grain.