Hispanics a Boon To N.C. Economy?

Stella M. Hopkins and Franco Ordoñez, Charlotte Observer, Jan. 4, 2006

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The state’s Hispanic population is almost 20 percent larger than government estimates and contributed $9.2 billion to the economy in 2004, said researchers at UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan Institute. An estimated 600,913 N.C. Hispanics buy goods, generate demand for services and create jobs by opening businesses, as Hernandez did with his Carniceria La Mexicana stores.

Researchers said that nearly half the state’s Hispanic population is illegal. They also found that the state spent $817 million providing Hispanics with key social services while collecting $756 million in taxes. That’s a shortfall of $61 million, or $102 per person, the report said.

“I hope that most of us will see this as a half-full glass instead of a half-empty one,” Armando Ortiz Rocha, the Consul of Mexico in Raleigh said after the report’s release in Durham. “The impacts are $9 billion and the creation of so many jobs and the taxes they pay. That is very good news.”

Ron Woodard, director of N.C. Listen, an immigration reform group, said that a larger population certainly spends more. But he worries that if illegal immigration isn’t reduced, the cost burden on schools and health care will worsen.

He added: “The bigger issue is whether you’re displacing an American and or driving down their wages.”

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—A study designed to gauge the economic impact of the Latino population in North Carolina suggests Hispanic immigration created work but caused a drain on wages.

The study says low-wage Hispanic workers depressed wages in North Carolina by nearly two (b) billion dollars in 2004. However, the study also says their presence also created nearly 90-thousand jobs for others.

It’s billed as the first investigation of Latino economic impact in a state with one of the country’s fastest-growing populations.

The study by members of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise says Hispanic residents filled about a third of the new jobs created in North Carolina in the last decade and make up about 30 percent of the jobs in the construction industry.

It’s also estimated that there are about 601-thousand Hispanics living in the state, with about 45 percent lacking legal status in the United States.

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