Temporal and Spatial Variation in 20th Century U.S. Great Plains Population Change

Curtis, Katherine
Working paper no. 2004-12


Although the Great Plains region typically connotes population loss, there are periods in its history more accurately associated with growth. And while the Plains might be considered homogeneous, there is reason to suspect variation in patterns of population growth across the vast region. Using census data, I employ growth curve modeling and GIS techniques to assess the nature and extent of temporal and spatial variation in county population change throughout the 20th century. The region experienced overall growth during the Settlement Period (1900-1930), negative growth during the Crisis and Post-War Periods (1930-1950 and 1950-1970), and a return to positive growth in the Agricultural Bust Period (1970-2000). However, results also suggest that there is considerable variation in growth between these time periods as well as variation across geography within the eras corresponding with important historical events. These findings motivate further analysis of potential correlates driving temporal and spatial patterns of variation.