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 said.

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:, Pew Hispanic Center