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Study: Latinos chasing jobs to Middle America

/ Source: The Associated Press

Heartland communities with jobs to offer are becoming magnets for Hispanics, who now account for half the nation’s population growth.

Hispanics in the U.S. — both recent immigrants and people born here — are moving beyond traditional ports of entry in large numbers, boosting the populations of states such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Indiana, a study by the Brookings Institution shows.

And they are heading not only to big cities; many are moving to historically white, non-Hispanic suburbs, said William Frey, a demographer at Brookings and the author of the study, which is being released Tuesday.

“The people there are now getting a taste of diversity, firsthand,” Frey said in an interview.

While diversity enriches communities, it also can present challenges, even when the local Hispanic population is relatively small, Frey said. Many schools, social service agencies and government officials must, for the first time, deal with numbers of people who do not speak English very well, Frey said.

“You’re the first kid on the block when you come into some of these neighborhoods and it’s not always easy,” Frey said. “There will have to be a little bit of accommodation from both the newcomers and the people already there.”

Frey analyzed Census Bureau population estimates from 1990, 2000 and 2004 for 361 metropolitan areas in the United States.

Fastest-growing wedge of America
In 2004, white non-Hispanics made up 67 percent of the American population, but they accounted for only 18 percent of the population growth from 2000 to 2004. Hispanics, meanwhile, made up only 14 percent of the population in 2004, while they accounted for 49 percent of the population growth since the start of the decade.

Blacks made up 12 percent of the population in 2004, and accounted for 14 percent of the population growth from 2000 to 2004. Asians made up 4 percent of the population in 2004, and accounted for 14 percent of the population growth.

Those trends are expected to continue, with white non-Hispanics making up less than half the American population by about 2050, according to Census Bureau projections. Minorities already make up most of the population in four states: California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas.

Minorities make up 40 percent or more of the population in five other states: Arizona; Georgia; Maryland, Mississippi and New York.

Going where the jobs are
Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago continue to have the largest Hispanic populations in the country. But Hispanic populations are growing faster elsewhere.

From 2000 to 2004, Hispanic populations grew by more than 40 percent in six metropolitan areas: Atlanta; Cape Coral, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tenn., and Raleigh, N.C.

Hispanics moved to those areas because their economies are creating jobs, said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington.

“New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have gotten expensive, and they haven’t been growing as fast as Charlotte and Raleigh,” Suro said.

“Those places all tend to be metro areas where the overall population is growing fast and where the economies are vibrant,” Suro said. “That kind of rapid economic growth and expansion creates a demand, particularly for recently arrived immigrant workers.”