Census Bureau: Hispanics account for half of US population growth

The Hispanic population grew 43 percent from 2000 through 2010, four times faster than the growth rate for the US as a whole, the US Census Bureau said Thursday. Much of that was in the South.

David Goldman/AP
Kevin Morales, an undocumented immigrant, wears a T-shirt reading 'We Just Want A Better Life' during a protest Wednesday in Douglasville, Ga. About 50 students walked out of class at Douglas County High School to oppose Georgia's new law cracking down on illegal immigration and a policy that bars illegal immigrant students from the most competitive state colleges and universities.

The US Census Bureau reported Thursday that the Hispanic population rose by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010, accounting for more than half of the nation’s population increase of 27.3 million.

Put another way, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent – four times America’s overall 9.7 percent growth rate and much more than the non-Hispanic white population, which grew by barely more than 1 percent over the same period.

Details about US population growth come as legal and political issues swirl around illegal immigration, which focuses largely on Hispanics crossing the border into the United States.

Also on Thursday, the US Supreme Court on a 5-to-3 vote upheld an Arizona law that revokes the business licenses of companies that hire illegal immigrants.

The high court also approved Arizona’s requirement that employers must use the federal E-Verify system, which uses Social Security numbers to confirm that workers may be legally employed. (The federal program itself is voluntary.)

Meanwhile, Arizona’s more controversial law requiring state and local police during a valid stop to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be in the US illegally is headed for Supreme Court disposition as well. At the moment, implementing that law has been blocked by an injunction upheld by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals last month.

Georgia and several other states are watching that case for direction on how they might proceed.

The latest Census Bureau information paints a picture of how and where the US Hispanic population is growing – most significantly in the South (57 percent) and the Midwest (49 percent).

“In eight states in the South (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) and in South Dakota, the Hispanic population more than doubled in size between 2000 and 2010,” according to the Census Bureau.

While more than half of the Hispanic population in the United States lives in three states (California, Texas, and Florida), the Hispanic population more than doubled in at least one of every four counties across the country.

About three-quarters of Hispanics in the United States indicated on their census forms that they are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Cuban origin. But since 2000, three other Hispanic-origin groups surpassed a population of 1 million: Salvadoran, Dominican, and Guatemalan.

While non-Hispanic whites remain a majority in the United States (64 percent, down from 69 percent in 2000), the growth in the Hispanic population has an important political dimension for both major parties.

In the 2010 midterm elections, 60 percent of Hispanics voted for Democrats and 38 percent voted for Republicans, according to exit polls. In 2008, Hispanics voted for Barack Obama by more than 2 to 1 (67 to 31 percent) over John McCain.

Race and ethnicity are likely to be a factor in the congressional redistricting mandated by the 2010 census.

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