Report Hispanic population booming in the South
Gannett News Service
Jul. 26, 2005
By Greg Wright
WASHINGTON - The Hispanic population in six Southern states grew faster than any
other states between 2000 and 2003, a report released Tuesday said.
The Pew Hispanic Center said that the Hispanic population in Alabama, Arkansas,
Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee grew by 22 percent in that
time period - nearly twice the growth rate of the country as a whole.
Hispanics are increasingly choosing the South because the cost of living is
often lower than the rest of the country and jobs are plentiful, said officials
at the nonpartisan Pew research group that did the study.
But the rapid growth of Hispanics into a part of the country that historically
did not have a large Spanish-speaking population is increasing demand on public
services, officials from the center said.
For instance, Alabama schools are finding they must provide language classes for
students with immigrant parents who know little or no English, said Susan
Salter, spokeswoman for the Alabama Association of School Boards in Montgomery.
Doctors and dentists throughout the South are getting interpreters to speak to
patients, said Sonya Tafoya, a research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center.
And many of the newly arrived immigrants are living below the poverty level
because they often have low-paying jobs and tend to have larger families than
whites and blacks, the report said.
"Many of these Latinos are what you would classify as the working poor," Tafoya
The center found that Hispanic population in these six Southern states grew by
261,817, or 22 percent, between 2000 and 2003. This compares with a 13 percent
increase for the nation as a whole during the same time period.
Even before this decade, there was a sharp rise in Hispanic immigration to the
South because the economy was thriving, according to the study.
North Carolina experienced the highest Hispanic growth in the 1990s - 400
percent, to 378,963 during the decade, the report said.
Hispanics who have moved to the South tend to be recent immigrants to the United
States. In 2000, almost three out of four said they were born in Mexico. Most
are unmarried males; many have relatively little education and do not speak
English well, the report said.
As the new immigrants have families and get older they will put more demands on
schools and other public services but they will also be paying more taxes to
support them, the report said.
More than 5.5 million children should be enrolled in schools in the six Southern
states by 2007, according to the report.
It showed the number of Hispanic children enrolled is expected to rise by
386,943 between the 2001 and 2007 school years.
The center's research showed during the same period the number of black students
in the Southern states will rise by 67,620 while white student enrollment will
fall by 25,619 in those states.
The poverty rates in all six states dropped during the 1990s, but more than 25
percent of Hispanics in those states lived below the poverty line, compared with
about 15 percent of the total population, the report said.
On the Web:
www.pewhispanic.org, Pew Hispanic Center