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Census: Hispanic population rises 58% nationwide over past decade

March 13, 2001|By ERIKA BUCK, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — The Hispanic population increased by about 58 percent nationwide over the last decade and now nearly equals the population of non-Hispanic blacks, Census Bureau figures released Monday showed.

The number of individuals identifying themselves as Hispanic grew to 35.3 million, or 13 percent of the population, in 2000 from 22.4 million in 1990. The non-Hispanic black population in 2000 was slightly higher at 36.4 million.

The survey showed the complex diversity of the nation's population. For the first time, people were able to identify themselves as belonging to more than one race, and 2.4 percent, or nearly 7 million Americans, chose that option. A separate question asked whether respondents were of Hispanic origin, which is considered an ethnicity rather than a race.

"Certainly within the last 40 or 50 years, there is probably more diversity now than ever before," said Jorge del Pinal of the Census Bureau.

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The non-Hispanic black population grew by 22 percent to 36.4 million, while the non-Hispanic Asian population increased by 72 percent to 11.9 million since 1990. The non-Hispanic white population grew at the slowest rate, 9 percent over the last 10 years, to 217 million.

The census figures may have broad implications for the Hispanic community because politicians and policy makers use the numbers to allocate federal funding for programs and uphold civil rights laws. Marketers also use census figures to determine where and how to sell their products.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is pushing to increase Hispanic representation in Congress to mirror the country's changing population, said a spokeswoman for Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, chairman of the caucus.

"Before we can take advantage of these numbers, we have to generate political representation and power," said Reyes.

The Hispanic population is younger than other ethnic and racial groups, with 35 percent of Hispanics under 18. This is a result of high levels of immigration, said Claudette Bennett of the Census Bureau.

"It really speaks to the fact that we are going to be much more of an influence in the future than we are now," said Sonia Perez, a spokeswoman for National Council of La Raza, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving opportunities for Hispanics.

The Hispanic population data released Monday exceeded earlier Census Bureau estimates, which put the Hispanic population in 2000 at about 33 million.

Imperial County's Hispanic population has far outpaced the rest of the country due to its position near the border. According to the 1990 census, 66 percent of the county's population, roughly 72,000 people, identified themselves as Hispanic.

State and county census data for 2000 will be released throughout March and will be used to redraw legislative and congressional districts.

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