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According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.00 square miles (33.67 km2), of which 12.77 square miles (33.07 km2) is land and 0.23 square miles (0.60 km2) is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 30,787 people, 12,201 households, and 7,015 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,410.9 inhabitants per square mile (930.9/km2). There were 12,738 housing units at an average density of 997.5 per square mile (385.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.3% White, 1.0% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 3.1% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.3% of the population.
There were 12,201 households, of which 29.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 9.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.5% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.96 .
The median age in the city was 29 years. 22.2% of residents were under age 18; 20.5% were between ages 18 and 24; 25.6% were aged 25 to 44; 20.6% were aged 45 to 64; and 11.1% were aged 65 years or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.9% male and 51.1% female.
There were 10,549 households, out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.6% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.96 .
In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.2% under age 18, 23.9% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 17.1% from 45 to 64, and 10.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.6 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,829, and the median income for a family was $46,650. Males had a median income of $30,150 versus $22,366 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,713. About 7.4% of families and 13.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.8% of those under age 18 and 8.9% of those age 65 or over.
Panorama c. 1909
Parade of U.S. Infantry through Kearney, Nebraska (1888).
Streets of Kearney, Nebraska showing houses and one person, c. 1907
The original settlement in the area was called Dobytown, located 2 miles (3.2 km) southeast of the present-day Kearney. Later the city was moved and renamed after the nearby Fort Kearny (with an extra "e" added, but pronounced the same), a United States Army outpost along the Oregon Trail in the middle of the 19th century. The fort was named after Colonel (later General) Stephen W. Kearny. The "e" was added by mistake sometime afterwards by postmen who consistently misspelled the town name; eventually it just stuck. Kearney was incorporated on December 3, 1873. The current location of the city is on the north side of the Platte River and steadily grew as a result of the influence of the railroad.
In 1912, a Catholic Diocese was centered here. This status was removed in 1917, with the creation of other dioceses. In 1997, the city began to be used as a titular see by the Catholic Church.
The council-manager form is used in Kearney. The City Council makes legislative and policy-making decisions. There are five members elected citywide to serve four-year terms which are staggered. The council manager form of government was adopted in 1950. Michael W. Morgan currently serves as city manager.
The council appoints a city manager to implement policies, prepare a budget, appoints department heads, and recommends areas that the council needs to attend. There are five members elected citywide serving staggered four-year terms. One member of the City Council is chosen by the council to be Mayor. Stanley Clouse is the Mayor.
University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) is located in the city. The campus is a 235-acre (0.95 km2) residential campus with more than 37 buildings. It was founded in 1905 as Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney and became Nebraska State Teachers College in 1921. Between 1963 and 1991 the school was known as Kearney State College. The college's name was changed to University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1991, when it joined the University of Nebraska system.
The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument spans Interstate 80 at mile marker 274 and contains exhibits that trace the history of the Great Platte River Road from the Oregon Trail days to the present. President Bill Clinton toured the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument on December 8, 2000, while on a visit to Kearney. Jack Nicholson was filmed in a scene at the Archway for the movie About Schmidt.
The Museum of Nebraska Art, the state's official art collection, houses artworks spanning 175 years, from the 19th century to the present.
Dexter (season 6), episode 7 ("Nebraska", airdate November 13, 2011) was set in Kearney, Nebraska, in large part because the show's co-executive producer, Tim Schlattmann, is a 1981 Kearney High School graduate. In "Nebraska," whose departure in multiple ways from previous Dexter episodes was (for the most part) favorably received,witness protection has relocated the Trinity Killer's surviving family to Kearney, where a copycat killer appears to have murdered Trinity's widow and daughter, so Dexter travels to Kearney to avenge the killings. Numerous elements in the episode underscore Kearney's rural setting and culture, some sinister, and farm-specific settings and implements add variety to Dexter's methods of killing and corpse disposal.
^"Government". City of Kearney, NE - official website. City of Kearney. Retrieved 2019.