Counties in Iowa With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Exploring the 5 Counties in Iowa With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Iowa boasts a diverse blend of history, culture, and natural splendor. Despite its rich tapestry, the state grapples with notable transformations, particularly in its rural regions. Recent census figures reveal a 4.9% overall population surge in Iowa from 2010 to 2022, bringing the total to 3.2 million residents.

However, this growth is not uniform across the state. Some counties, particularly those in close proximity to urban hubs, witnessed substantial population gains, while others encountered sharp declines.

This article delves into the five Iowa counties that experienced the most pronounced population decrease from 2010 to 2022, based on the percentage change in population.

CountyPopulation (2019)Population Change (2010-2022)County Seat
Adams3,648-9.40%Corning
Ringgold4,968-8.90%Mount Ayr
Emmet9,115-11.50%Estherville
Decatur7,402-12.50%Leon
Fremont6,726-13.20%Sidney

Adams County

Adams County, situated in southwest Iowa and bordering Nebraska, holds the distinction of being the least populous county in the state. As of 2019, its resident count stands at 3,648, reflecting a 9.4% decline since 2010—the most significant percentage decrease among all Iowa counties.

Predominantly rural, Adams County relies primarily on agriculture as its main industry. The county seat is Corning, the largest city within its borders, boasting a population of 1,433.

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Ringgold County

Ringgold County, situated in south-central Iowa and bordering Missouri, holds the distinction of being the second least populous county in the state, boasting a population of just 4,968 residents as of 2019.

Counties in Iowa With the Most Rapid Population Decline
Image By: Neilsberg

This figure indicates a decline of 8.9% since 2010, marking the second-highest percentage drop among all counties in Iowa. Primarily rural in nature, Ringgold County thrives on agriculture and manufacturing as its primary industries. The county’s largest city and seat is Mount Ayr, with a population of 1,599.

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Emmet County

Emmet County, situated in northwest Iowa and bordering Minnesota, holds the distinction of being the third least populous county in the state.

As of 2019, its resident count stands at a modest 9,115, reflecting an 11.5% decline since 2010. This decline ranks as the third-largest percentage drop among all counties in Iowa.

The county’s landscape is predominantly rural, with agriculture, manufacturing, and health care serving as its primary industries. Estherville, the county seat, also claims the title of the largest city within Emmet County, boasting a population of 5,906.

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Decatur County

Decatur County, situated in south-central Iowa and bordering Missouri, holds the distinction of being the fourth least populous county in the state, boasting a population of only 7,402 residents as of 2019. This figure reflects a notable decline of 12.5% since 2010, marking the fourth-largest percentage decrease among all counties in Iowa.

Counties in Iowa With the Most Rapid Population Decline
Image By: Neilsberg

Primarily rural in nature, Decatur County thrives on key industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and retail trade. The county’s central hub is the city of Leon, which not only serves as the county seat but also stands as its most populous city, hosting 1,793 residents.

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Fremont County

Fremont County, situated in southwest Iowa and bordered by Nebraska and Missouri, holds the distinction of being the fifth least populous county in the state. As of 2019, its resident count stands at 6,726, indicating a notable 13.2% decline since 2010—the fifth-largest percentage decrease among all Iowa counties.

Primarily rural in nature, Fremont County thrives on key industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. The county’s central hub is the city of Sidney, serving as both the county seat and its most populous area, boasting a population of 1,098.

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Final Words

In summary, Iowa is a state with a diverse and dynamic population, yet it grapples with challenges in its rural regions. The five counties witnessing the most substantial population decline from 2010 to 2022 are Adams, Ringgold, Emmet, Decatur, and Fremont.

Factors contributing to the depopulation of these counties include the aging and outmigration of the younger generation, limited economic opportunities, a lack of amenities, and a low birth rate.

Moreover, ongoing community revitalization efforts are underway, including infrastructure improvements, service expansions, and event promotions. Exploring and supporting these counties is worthwhile, as they form an integral part of Iowa’s rich tapestry.

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.