Summer Harlow, News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware), August 9, 2007
Across the country, more than 300 counties are now “majority-minority,” a shift spurred by immigration and higher birth rates among Hispanics and blacks.
That means whites are now in the minority in nearly one in 10 U.S. counties, according to Census data being released today.
Minorities account for more than 25 percent of Delaware’s population, and it’s no surprise that much of that can be attributed to a 44.4 percent surge in the state’s Hispanic population from 2000 to 2006. Los Angeles County, Harris County in Texas, and Miami-Dade County in Florida had the largest Hispanic populations, according to the Census.
“The Hispanic population has been increasing steadily for almost two decades, and I don’t expect that to change,” said Ed Ratledge, director of the University of Delaware’s Center for Applied Demography and Survey Research.
Such an increase affects schools and government services, as much of the Hispanic growth comes from younger families, and minorities in general tend to have higher fertility rates, Ratledge said.
The state treasurer recently looked at what demographic shifts will mean to the state. “What we found from the Facing Forward report is that the state will need to work harder in many areas, especially health care and education, to address the needs of a growingly diverse population,” said Treasurer Jack Markell.
Hispanics represented about 24 percent of all growth in the state from 2000 to 2006, even though they account for only 6.3 percent of the state’s entire population. Most of the Hispanic population is concentrated in New Castle County.
It’s not just Hispanics
The Asian population jumped about 42 percent, most of that growth in New Castle County.
The population of blacks grew 16 percent across the state, with growth highest in Kent County.
Delaware is one of the more diverse states in the Northeast, Ratledge said.
That diversity is why the YWCA Delaware’s Racial Justice Program offers study circles to bring together diverse groups of people to talk about racial tensions. Since the program started in 1997, more than 12,000 Delawareans have participated in the groups, said Faye Bonneau, program manager.
Despite the diversity, Hispanics aren’t always welcomed with open arms, Ana Velasquez said, especially as all native Spanish speakers tend to get lumped together, regardless of their immigration status or what country they come from.
While the percentage of the nonwhite population in both New Castle and Kent counties bumped up between 2000 and 2006, in Sussex County it fell from 17.6 percent to 16.3 percent, due in part to a wave of retirees moving to southern Delaware.
Sussex County’s white population jumped 16.9 percent between 2000 and 2006—higher than the overall state’s white population increase of 5.8 percent.
The retirees also create a demand for services, which attracts more people to the area, said Karen McGrath, executive direction for the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.
Unlike in Sussex County, New Castle County saw no growth in the white population during those six years.
Ratledge said that’s in part due to retirees moving out of northern Delaware, and a lack of people coming in because of fewer job opportunities.
The trend toward more diversification isn’t likely to change soon, especially as the state’s Hispanic population begins to catch up to the national average, Ratledge said.