Many Hispanics Call State Home; Adams, Franklin Counties Are Both Majority-Minorities

AP & Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Washington), May 14, 2009

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But in Washington, Latinos already make up the majority of the population in two counties–Franklin and Adams.

Hispanics also are Washington’s largest minority group, totaling 643,687 residents–or nearly 10 percent of the state’s 6.5 million population, the census shows.

Adams County is about 57 percent minority, with 9,886 of its 17,285 residents identifying themselves as minorities.

Franklin County is just over 54 percent minority, with 39,577 minority residents out of 72,783 people.

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“We have quite a bilingual work force in Franklin County, and that’s always a plus,” [TRIDEC Public Affairs Director Deanna Smith] said. “This is a global economy so you’re just not selling in the U.S. anymore.”

Smith said Franklin County’s agriculture-based economy and Pasco’s downtown, which features many Hispanic-owned businesses, attract Latinos from other areas of the country. The addition of big-box stores along Road 68, she said, has boosted job opportunities in the area in recent years as well.

Coupled with affordable housing and low-income units, Smith said, Pasco’s job market presents traditionally seasonal workers with a chance to find secure steady employment and the opportunity to become residents and community members.

Neighboring Yakima County was nearly 49 percent minority last year. Other counties above 30 percent included Grant (39.6 percent) and King (31.3 percent).

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Nationwide census data also showed that fewer Hispanics were migrating to suburbs and newly emerging immigrant areas in the Southeast, including Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia, staying put instead in traditional gateway locations such as California.

In all, about 309 of the nation’s 3,142 counties, or one in 10, have minority populations greater than 50 percent.

As a state, Washington is 24.5 percent minority, well below the national average of about–34 percent, but substantially more than neighboring Oregon (20 percent) and Idaho (14.9 percent).

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But the slowdown among Hispanics and Asians continues to shift conventional notions on when the tipping point in U.S. diversity will come–estimated to occur more than three decades from now. Black growth rates remain somewhat flat.

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Other decreases were seen in new immigrant destinations in the Southeast, previously seen as offering good manufacturing jobs in lower-cost cities compared to the pricier Northeast. In contrast, cities in California, Illinois and New Jersey showed gains.

The Census Bureau projected last August that white children will become the minority in 2023 and the overall white population will follow in 2042. The agency now says it will recalculate those figures, typically updated every three to four years, because they don’t fully take into account anti-immigration policies after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the current economic crisis.

The new projections, expected to be released later this year, could delay the tipping point for minorities by 10 years, given the current low rates of immigration, said David Waddington, the Census Bureau’s chief of projections.

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Blacks, who comprise about 12.2 percent of the population, have increased at a rate of about 1 percent each year. Whites, with a median age of 41, have increased very little in recent years due to low birth rates and an aging boomer population.

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