Iowa's Latino population spreads out

2013-06-12T23:00:00Z Iowa's Latino population spreads outEd Tibbetts etibbetts@qctimes.com The Quad-City Times

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 today. 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 make up only about 5 percent of the overall population, and the rate of growth in between mid-2011 and mid-2012 was slower than what it averaged 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 says 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.

Not all of that change is the result of a growing Latino population. Eathington notes that between 2010 and 2012, 71 of the state’s counties saw a decline in their non-Hispanic population. That means 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.

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.

In Scott County, the number of Latinos grew by 4.1 percent to 10,072, for about a quarter of the overall growth between mid-2011 and mid-2012. Across the river, the number of Hispanics grew by just 1.4 percent, although the overall Latino population, at 12 percent of the whole, is roughly twice the share of the overall population as it is in Scott County.

Rock Island County has seen a stagnant population in recent years, but the new estimates do show nearly 15 percent growth in its Asian population, adding 399 people over the 12 months, going from 2,756 to 3,155. Scott County saw about a third the amount of growth as Rock Island County.

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. Refugee resettlement also could be contributing to the growth. Amy Rowell, director of World Relief in Moline, said the two largest populations it resettles are from Myanmar and Bhutan, and in some cases, they draw some of their countrymen who are living elsewhere in the United States. The agency resettles about 180 people a year.

Illinois’ Hispanic population grew by about 1.6 percent to just more than 2.1 million people. The state also saw a 2.4 percent increase in its Asian population and a small decline in the African-American population.

Both Iowa and Illinois saw increases in the number of people who are claiming more than once race. That was an option that became available on Census forms in 2000.

About 224,000 Illinoisans and 49,000 Iowans said they are of mixed races.

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