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In contrast to many rural towns in Nebraska and across the High Plains region, Chadron saw an increase in population, albeit slight, from 2000 to 2010, the latest US Census data show.

And Chadron is the only town in the northern tier of the Nebraska Panhandle that increased in population in both of the last two decades, numbers released earlier this month reveal.

Census figures released March 2 put Chadron’s population at 5,851, an increase of 217 over the 2000 head count. That amounts to a 3.9 percent increase in 10 years.

Chadron also increased its population from 1990 to 2000, but by only 46, or .8 percent.

That was still better than the prior decade, a period which saw the shut down of Chicago Northweste railroad operations in the community, when the city’s population dropped by 345, or 5.8 percent.

The increase also carried over to Dawes County, which had 122 more residents in 2010 than in 2000, even though Crawford, the other major population center in the county, lost residents over the same time period.

The data put Crawford’s 2010 population at 997, a decline of 110, or 9.9 percent, from 2000. Crawford also lost population from 1990 to 2000, but only 8 people, or .7 percent. From 1980 to 1990, however, Crawford’s population dropped by 200 people, or 15.2 percent

Over the 30 year period Chadron’s population has been more stable than most other Northern Panhandle towns, most of which recorded declines over each of the decades.

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Alliance, the largest town in the region went from 9,920 people in 1980 to 8,491 in 2010. Rushville’s population went down by 109 people from 2000 to 2010, and Gordon lost 144 people over the period.

Historical data show that Dawes County’s population was the highest in 1930, when it was home to 11,493 people. The current number is just 80 percent of that amount.

Sheridan County also recorded its greatest population in 1930, with 10,793 residents, but has declined by over 50 percent to just 5,469 in 2010.

The percentage drop over time has been greatest in Sioux County, which had 5,599 people in 1910. The 2010 population of 1,311 is only 23 percent of the number 100 years before.

For percentage of population swings, Whitney is the clear winner in the area, though. The community’s population went from 72 in 1980 to 38 ten years later. Over the next ten years Whitney saw a major population boom, increasing by almost 129 percent, to 87 people.

The most recent decade wasn’t as kind however, and the town’s population went down by 11.5 percent, to 77 in 2010.

This story was corrected on March 10 to reflect that Chicago Northwestern Railroad was the business that closed in the 1980s.

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