Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/Thu/30918rCENSUS.html

Hispanic population in Arizona grows fast
September 18, 2003
By Howard Fischer

PHOENIX - Arizona continues to become a more and more Hispanic state.

New figures from the Census Bureau show that in the 27 months since the 2000 census the portion of Hispanics in Arizona's population has grown 1.8 percentage points, to 27.1 percent. That growth rate outpaces the last decade's.

In Pima County, Hispanics account for 31.3 percent of the population.

If the trend continues, Hispanics could be a third of the population by the next census.

That latest projection is based on official figures. There is some contention that those who are not here legally have escaped being counted and the percentage of Hispanics is actually higher.

Whatever the real numbers, researcher and pollster Earl de Berge, who has tracked Hispanic attitudes and buying habits, said retailers and politicians need to pay attention.

Another set of figures from the Census Bureau suggests the rising percentage of Hispanics doesn't mean that a larger percentage of Arizonans will be speaking Spanish.

In 1990, 19.9 percent of all Arizonans age 5 and up spoke Spanish at home. A decade later, that percentage was unchanged.

Similarly, 25.8 percent of Arizonans told census takers in 1990 that they speak a language other than English, a figure that also did not change in 10 years.

Kathy McKee, who is heading an initiative to deny government services to those who cannot prove legal residency and to require proof of citizenship to vote, said she has no problem with the changing demographics and the increasing political strength of the Hispanic community. That is, if the shift were based solely on birthrates and legal immigration.

She said the state is becoming more populated by people not here legally, with few language or job skills.