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Hispanic Population Surges…Go South, Drawn By Jobs Requiring Manual-Labor Skills

Hispanic Population Surges, Led By South, West

September 18, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Las Vegas Review-Journal. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON -- The nation's Hispanic population is keeping up its explosive growth of the 1990s, led by states in the South and West, the first detailed Census Bureau estimates since the 2000 national head count show.

Nevada's Hispanic population grew by 15 percent between July 2000 and July 2002, the third-fastest growth rate among states, the estimates show.

Analysts cited higher birth rates for Hispanics and a continued influx of new immigrants looking for jobs, even during a period when the U.S. economy slowed, as key reasons for the increase.

Georgia topped the list of states with the fastest-growing Hispanic populations, adding nearly 17 percent between July 2000 and July 2002 to reach 516,000 residents, according to Census Bureau estimates being released today. North Carolina's Hispanic population grew by 16 percent, while Nevada, Kentucky and South Carolina were next.

According to the Census estimates, the number of Hispanics in Nevada grew from 402,000 in 2000 to more than 462,000 in 2002. The growth rate for Hispanics here nearly doubled the state's already fast overall growth rate of 7.7 percent for the two-year period, said Jeff Hardcastle, Nevada's state demographer.

"It's primarily because of the phenomenal creation of jobs in the service industry and the construction industry," he said.

The same is true for other areas of the country.

"Hispanic immigrants are coming here for jobs and quality of life," said University of Georgia demographer Douglas Bachtel. "They are taking jobs that a lot of Americans don't want, like construction, landscaping and in the service economy."

California still has the largest number of Hispanics with 11.9 million, about one-third of its total population, followed by Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois.

Los Angeles County had the largest population of Hispanics among counties (4.5 million), and Webb County, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, which includes Laredo, was the county where Hispanics comprised the highest proportion of the population (95 percent).

Hispanics are the nation's largest minority group. The Census Bureau released a report in June that found the Hispanic population stood at 38.8 million, an increase of almost 9 percent in the two years ending July 2002. That was four times the growth rate for the U.S. population overall and about 14 times greater than the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

The government considers "Hispanic" an ethnicity instead of a race, so people of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. In 2000, the Census Bureau for the first time allowed people to identify themselves by more than one race.

Between 2000 and 2002, the Hispanic population had an annual growth rate of 4.1 percent, slightly lower than the 4.6 percent annual rate of the 1990s, according to an analysis of the data by John Haaga, a demographer with the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau in Washington.

New Hispanic immigrants continue to be drawn beyond traditional gateway states like California, New York and Texas and into places in the fast-growing South and West, as well as rural parts of the Midwest where jobs on farms and in meat-packing plants are available, University of Michigan demographer William Frey said.

The Hispanic Community Support Center in Duluth, Ga., a Gwinnett County suburb of Atlanta, gets 300 visits a week from day laborers looking for jobs, said its founder, Maria Garcia.

"People in Mexico make so little money, they are risking everything for a little bit more in the United States," she said. About 87,000 Hispanics live in Gwinnett County, up one-third between 2000 and 2002.

As the population grows, Hispanics are becoming a more influential and desirable market.

Tomas Bialet said he started a Spanish-language newspaper in Cottonwood, Ariz., about 100 miles north of Phoenix, because of an influx of Hispanics taking jobs in construction and at luxury resorts and tourist destinations.

Bialet said the northern Arizona area is experiencing problems found in other fast-growing communities where immigrant Hispanics locate: lack of affordable housing, schools unprepared to teach students with limited English and workers who entered the country illegally and lack documents necessary for work.

Hispanics Go South, Drawn By Jobs Requiring Manual-Labor Skills

By Mark Niesse | The Associated Press

September 18, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

ATLANTA -- New census figures show that Hispanic immigrants have flooded the South since 2000, many of them attracted by the growing region's surplus of low-paying jobs.

Hispanic populations have grown throughout the country, but fastest in the South, with Georgia leading the nation with 16.8percent growth from 2000 to 2002, according to Census Bureau estimates released today.

Of the 10 states with the highest influx of Hispanics, six were in the South: Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia and Alabama. Florida was 13th, with an increase of 11percent.

Hispanics were drawn to the South because it needed workers for manual labor in industries such as agriculture, construction, textiles and janitorial work, said Charles Gallagher, a sociology professor at Georgia State University.

After Georgia, Washington, D.C., had the second-highest Hispanic growth, at 16 percent. There were 15.7 percent more Hispanics in North Carolina, 15 percent more in Nevada and 13.9 percent more in Kentucky.

The migration of Hispanics from Latin America to the United States follows a pattern set by many other immigrant groups -- spurred by poverty, they seek a new life and better wages in America, Gallagher said.

While Hispanics may make $6 or $7 an hour in labor-intense jobs in the United States, the American dream of social mobility may be out of reach for many of them, he said. That's because the higher-paying work requiring more education is already filled to capacity.

"This is as good as it gets for them," Gallagher said. "It's hard work, it's dangerous work, it's repetitious work. Folks who have been in the U.S. for a few generations, they won't work these jobs."

Longtime Georgia residents said Wednesday that it was easy to see the increasing number of Hispanics in the state.

But some worried that Hispanics would take over more blue-collar jobs, making it harder for residents to get work.

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