Minorities Become A Majority In Broward

Alva James-Johnson & Robin Benedick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, August 4 2006

Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, whose numbers have been steadily growing in Broward County, are now the majority, a statistical milestone that could significantly affect everything from politics to education in the coming years.

The non-Hispanic white population in Broward, which was 58.3 percent as recently as 2000, is now 49.9 percent, a slip of more than 8 percentage points in just five years, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today.

That’s a dramatic change from 1990, when three out of four Broward residents were non-Hispanic whites.

The number of minority residents in the county is expected to reach about 63 percent by 2030, according to independent estimates by state officials. The total county population is about 1.8 million.

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The group, made up mostly of immigrants from black Caribbean countries, has fueled the growth of the black population.

Since 2001, more black people have come to Broward each year than to any other county in the United States, according to the census, increasing the county’s black population by almost 85,000 people between 2000 and 2005. The increase would overflow Dolphin Stadium.

The number of blacks in Broward rose to 442,355 in 2005 from 357,759 in 2000, while the number of white Hispanics jumped to 364,121 from 259,051.

Palm Beach County also experienced a decline in the percentage of its non-Hispanic white population. Whites made up about 65.5 percent of the county’s 1.3 million residents, according to census estimates for 2005. But that was down from 66.4 percent of the population the previous year. In Miami-Dade, the non-Hispanic white population dropped to 18.6 percent from 20.8 in the same five-year period.

As members of the country’s fastest-growing minority group, Hispanics expressed little surprise that minorities prevail in Broward. A census study released in May showed one-third of Americans identify themselves as a minority. The country’s 42.7 million Hispanics are a large part of that trend.

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Dick Ogburn, assistant to the director for research and budget at the South Florida Regional Planning Council, said the percentage of Broward’s non-Hispanic white population has slipped due to the huge influx of Hispanics and people of Caribbean origin, especially after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

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Census figures show a consistent drop in Broward’s non-Hispanic white population over the past five years, plunging to 886,609 in 2005 from 952,196 in 2000. But Ogburn said the new residents had a bigger role in the demographic shift.

“It’s not so much because we’ve seen an outward flow of the non-Hispanic white population,” Ogburn said, pointing out that seven out of 10 new residents in Broward were born abroad. “Instead, it’s because the minority population has grown.”

Young families moving from Latin America are forgoing the fast urban pace of Miami and settling in the gated enclaves of such cities as Margate and Weston, home to many Venezuelans and Colombians, said Fabio Andrade, head of the Weston-based Americas Community Center.

“We have a large established community in Broward County, people who are looking for quiet, residential neighborhoods where they can raise their families,” he said. “They are enrolling their kids in schools and adding to the overall stability of Broward County.”

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But Pearl Woolridge, a black resident of Oakland Park, wondered where was the political clout if whites are no longer a majority in the county. She said the latest census numbers should make county leaders “cater to the people they serve.”

E. Pat Larkins, a Pompano Beach commissioner, said blacks and Hispanics should work together.

“There’s no need having those numbers if we don’t make a difference,” he said. “It puts an obligation on the black leadership, including myself, to lead and seek more parity as we go through this evolution. The demographics are changing dramatically. We must work with other groups for our interests, for our fair share.”

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