By Ed Tibbetts
Iowa’s Hispanic population continues to rise and spread, according to new government figures that estimate 162,894 Latinos called the state home on July 1, 2012.
That’s a 3.2 percent increase from the year before, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, which are being released Thursday. The increase was 10 times the estimated boost in the state’s overall population for the year.
The number of Latinos in the state still makes up only about 5 percent of the overall population, and the rate of growth between mid-2011 and mid-2012 was slower than the average over the past decade. Still, the Latino influence is spreading, as more and more counties are beginning to gain noticeable Hispanic populations.
The new Census data say 25 of Iowa’s 99 counties now have at least 5 percent of their population made up of Latinos, up from 15 just five years ago. Latinos make up 10 percent of the population in 10 counties, up from seven in 2008.
“My best guess is, as these communities grow in size, they become more attractive” to other Latinos, said Liesl Eathington, an assistant scientist at Iowa State University who tracks demographic trends in the state.
Plymouth County's Latino population grew only slightly, from 3.1 percent to 3.3 percent, between 2011 and 2012; Woodbury County, which has a Hispanic population nearly three times that of the state overall, also saw a small increase, from 14 percent to 14.2 percent.
Erica DeLeon, executive director of Mary J. Treglia Community House, in Sioux City, said Latinos and other ethnic groups are drawn to Siouxland's affordable housing and promising job prospects.
“One of the big reasons that you’re seeing more of a Hispanic population and an ethnic population in general is just because families are discovering it’s a good place to live,” she said.
DeLeon added that the local Hispanic community has helped to enrich cultural diversity, boost economic growth and bring some authentic Mexican food to the area. She expects to see Sioux City’s Latino population increase in years to come.
“The diversity is good for us,” she said. “They’ve added a lot of vibrancy to the community in a lot of different ways.”
Not all of the state's demographic change is the result of a growing Latino population. ISU's Eathington notes that between 2010 and 2012, 71 of the state’s counties saw a decline in their non-Hispanic population. That means even a stable Latino population will grow its share of the overall population if the rest is shrinking.
Iowa’s rural areas have struggled for years to gain population.
Even with the attention given to Latinos, it still wasn’t the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in Iowa on a percentage basis. The number of Asians grew by 4.8 percent to 60,004 between mid-2011 and mid-2012.
Most of the increase came in Iowa’s largest counties, with two Des Moines area counties – Polk and Dallas – leading the way, accounting for about a third of the statewide increase.
It’s not clear what might be driving the change, and demographers have long cautioned against reading too much into one-year spikes in the estimates. Still, Asians were the fastest-growing of all the ethnic or racial minorities in the nation between mid-2011 and mid-2012.
Iowa’s African-American population grew by 2.3 percent to 97,080, with Polk, Johnson and Scott counties accounting for more than half the growth.
Iowa also saw increases in the number of people who are claiming more than one race. That was an option that became available on Census forms in 2000. About 49,000 Iowans said they are of mixed races.
Source: Sioux City Journal