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California and the West

Nevada Jumps 66.3% in 10 Years, Census Shows

Population: A tripling of the number of Latinos led the increase. Most of the growth is in the Las Vegas area.

March 14, 2001|TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — Led by a tripling of its Latino residents, the population of Nevada--the nation's fastest growing state--has ballooned to nearly 2 million people, a 66.3% increase since 1990, according to U.S. Census figures released Tuesday.

Most of that growth occurred in burgeoning Clark County, where the population expanded by 85.5%, allowing the Las Vegas region to further manhandle the balance of the state on political and financial issues.

Clark County, with 1,375,765 residents, now accounts for nearly 69% of the state's total population. The population of the county has eclipsed the rest of the state since 1980, but the trend has continued with the explosion of Strip casinos in the last decade and, in its wake, the resident work force that followed.

For all its wide open spaces, Nevada's population is heavily concentrated in its urban counties, and that concentration grew in the last decade. About 86% of the state's residents live in either Clark County or Washoe County, around Reno, compared with about 83% in 1990.

The state's population has also become more ethnically diverse, a change that has not been lost on Las Vegas' casino owners, at least one of whom is now marketing specifically to the local Asian population.

At Palace Station, General Manager Jonathan Swain introduced an "Asian gaming pit" two weeks ago, featuring 10 tables for pai gow poker, blackjack and baccarat--games that are popular among Chinese and other Asian cultures. He is adding three more tables next week, Swain said, because of their success.

The tables are staffed by Asian dealers, and a casino marketing person specifically targets local Asians for advertising, Swain said.

"Las Vegas is becoming a mature community, and with that comes cultural segmentation," Swain said. "With 100,000 local Asians, we can now cater to them. That's a lot of people."

Among the various ethnic groups, the number of Asians, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Nevada has about tripled, from 35,897 in 1990 to between 96,362 and 122,457 in 2000--about 4.8% to 6% of the population. Figures on race and ethnicity from the 2000 census are reported as ranges because, for the first time, people were allowed to report themselves as belonging to more than one group.

The state's Latino population is also up sharply. In 1990, Latinos--with a population of 124,419--made up 10.4% of the state's residents. By 2000, the number of Latinos had roughly tripled, to between 355,452 and 393,970, or 17.8% to 19.7% of the population.

The dramatic increase in the Latino population should put politicians on notice that those voters will need to be reckoned with, elected officials say.

Now it is time for them to become politically involved, said Dario Herrera, chairman of the Clark County Board of Commissioners--and one of only three Latino elected officials in southern Nevada. The other two are a school board member and a state legislator.

Only last year did the state's Democratic Party establish a Hispanic caucus, Herrera said.

"So far, the participation of Hispanics hasn't reflected their growing numbers," he said. "But there will be a great deal more targeting of Hispanic voters, and it will be incumbent upon elected officials to turn their attention to them."

Among the most grave issues facing the state's Latinos, he said, is education: About half of the Latinos who enter ninth grade drop out before graduation.

Jeff Hardcastle, the state demographer, said the burgeoning Latino population in southern Nevada is stoked by the availability of jobs in new home construction and service jobs in the hotels and casinos.

"That's the story of Nevada's growth: job creation," he said. The question that will be resolved when additional census data are released, he said, is whether the Latinos have moved here from California or directly from other countries.

The census showed that the state's black population was between 131,509 and 150,508--between 6.6% and 7.5% of the population. Whites numbered between 1,303,001 and 1,366,981--between 65.2% and 68.4% of the population.

Politically, the continued population shift to Clark County will force state legislators to add more seats to represent southern Nevada, giving the county an even stronger voice in politics at the expense of the rest of the state. Nevada also is in store for a third congressional seat, and a piece of that district will probably be in Clark County, which already makes up parts of the other two seats.

Within Clark County, the population of Henderson--a Las Vegas suburb--nearly tripled to 175,381 in 2000, from 64,942 in 1990, the figures showed.

Las Vegas' population increased 85%--nearly a doubling--to 478,434, from 258,295 just 10 years ago.

Reno, the state's second-largest city, grew by nearly 35% to 180,480 residents, and Carson City, the state capital, grew about 30% to 52,457.

William J. Raggio (R-Reno), the state Senate's majority leader, acknowledged that Clark County's legislators could bully the rest of Nevada. Over the years, however, they have shown restraint, he said.

"Nevada is the only state to my knowledge where one county has majority control of a state legislature," he said. "But fortunately, most of the people who serve in the Legislature look beyond their own district and try to be evenhanded across the state. I don't think that will change."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Nevada's Growth

The map at right shows percentage change in population by county, with the greatest increase shown in black.

*

Race and Ethnicity:

65.2% White*

17.8% Latino***

6.6% Black*

4.8% Asian, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander*

4.5% Other/ Multiple Race**

1.1% Native American*

*Non-Latino

**Non-Latino and Latino

***Latino-White and Latino-Other

*

State population, 1990 to 2000:

1990: 1,201,833

2000: 1,998,257

Source: Census Bureau; data analysis by RICHARD O'REILLY/Los Angeles Times

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