Monday, May 30, 2011

Texas’ Rapid Latino Growth Fueled by Those with Mexican Ancestry

Texas’ Rapid Latino Growth Fueled by Those with Mexican Ancestry

Dallas Morning News / 26 May 2011

By Michael E. Young/Staff Writer

In increasingly diverse Texas, one key component of the state’s strong growth over the past decade isn’t quite as diverse as it was.

The state’s Hispanic population increased 42 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, to almost 9.5 million. But after a dip in the 2000 census, when just 76 percent of Hispanics reported direct or family ties to Mexico, that percentage grew to 84 percent, according to demographic information released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

“I think what we’re seeing in part stems from the instability we saw in past decades in Central America compared to what we have now,” said Dr. Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University and former U.S. Census Bureau director.

But the real driver in Hispanic — and notably Mexican — growth is the Texas economy.

Through the first seven years of the decade, Murdock said, the state’s growth triggered a building boom that attracted construction workers, most notably from Mexico.

Dr. Lloyd Potter, the Texas state demographer, said that even when the U.S. economy faltered over the last three years, Texas’ “has been particularly robust compared with other states and weathered the recession relatively well.”

“That attracts everyone,” Potter said, “particularly people of Hispanic descent from other states. When we look at domestic migration into Texas, the greatest flow is from California,” a state whose population has deep ties to Mexico.

At the same time, U.S. immigration policy favors family reunification. So many of those who came from Mexico for work eventually obtained visas to bring their families here, too, Potter said.

“In terms of migration into the state, those two things favor people of Mexican origin,” he said.

Though Dallas County has by far the largest Hispanic population in North Texas, more than 900,000, its 37 percent growth rate from 2000 to 2010 trailed both the statewide rate of 42 percent and those of its suburban neighbors.

Collin County’s Hispanic population more than doubled to 115,345, an increase of 128 percent, while Hispanics in Denton County increased 129 percent, to 120,836. Tarrant County’s Hispanic population grew to 482,977, an increase of 69 percent.

“That’s another issue that clearly comes out in these numbers — we are more diverse, and that diversity is increasingly distributed not only in the central city counties, but in suburban counties as well,” Murdock said.

Asian population

That’s true for Asian immigrants, too. The Asian population increased 46 percent nationally from 2000 to 2010 and 71 percent in Texas to 964,000. Many of them sought homes in the suburbs.

“With their strong emphasis on education, many of the Asians are heading to the Katys and Planos, looking for better schools and a suburban lifestyle,” Murdock said.

While Dallas County’s population increased 6.7 percent over the decade, the Asian population rose 35 percent, to 87,752. Suburban growth rates were far more dramatic, though with much smaller numbers. In the seven-county Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Asian population increased from 194,050 to 338,692 over the decade, an increase of more than 74 percent.

On a percentage basis, most Asian groups in Texas grew even faster than Hispanics, but the real numbers of Asians are far smaller, Murdock said. And there has been a shift in the groups in most parts of Texas, with Indians the largest group in 2010, replacing the Vietnamese, who led in 2000.

“But all have had substantial increases, except in the Japanese population,” he said. “Over the decade, the population of Asian Indians increased about 90 percent in Texas, the Chinese 48 percent, 77 percent for Filipinos, 49 percent for Koreans and 56 percent for the Vietnamese.”

And as with Mexicans, the driving force for Asian growth, particularly Indian growth, is jobs, Potter said.

“There’s no question that over the decade, if you look at migration flow, Texas had a significant increase in the number of persons of Asian Indian descent,” he said. “That’s certainly consistent with the way the economy has gone, with industry moving a lot of people here on student visas or because they have skills in the high-tech industries or engineering.”

Once the workers are established, their families often follow, Potter said.

The latest census demographic numbers show the impact of increased diversity in powerful ways, Murdock said. Over the last decade, non-Hispanic whites increased 8.2 percent nationally. But Hispanic growth was 43 percent — an increase of 15.2 million people, more than half of the total national increase of 27.3 million.

Aging whites

While non-Hispanic whites are the largest race and ethnic group, they are growing at the slowest rate. And the group is getting increasingly older.

“We talk about how diverse Texas is, and that’s also true with age structure,” Murdock said. “We continue to be younger than the country as a whole, but we now have 44 counties where the median age is 45-plus. That’s an old population.”

Llano County is the oldest in the state, with a median age of 55, meaning half the population is older than 55 and half younger.

“The oldest counties in general are in the Panhandle, with predominantly aging Anglo populations,” Murdock said. “And the youngest counties are in the [Rio Grande] Valley … with huge minority populations.”

The seven counties in the Dallas area — Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman , Rockwall and Tarrant — have median ages from the low- to mid-30s. But each is older than it was 10 years ago.

The more dramatic population shifts pose particular problems across the state.

“If you’re in suburban areas around Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, you wonder, ‘How do we build enough schools and hire enough teachers?’” he said.

“And in West Texas and the Panhandle, it’s ‘How do we find enough students to keep our schools open?’ ”

Staff writer Ryan McNeill contributed to this report.

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