WASHINGTON — Heartland communities with jobs to offer are magnets for Latinos, who account for about half the nation's population growth, according to a new study released today.
Latinos in the U.S. -- recent immigrants and people born here -- are moving beyond traditional ports of entry in large numbers, boosting the populations of states such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Indiana, the study by the Brookings Institution shows.
And they are heading not only to big cities; many are moving to historically white, non-Latino suburbs, said William Frey, a demographer at Brookings and the author of the study.
"The people there are now getting a taste of diversity, firsthand," Frey said in an interview.
Although diversity enriches communities, it also can present challenges, even when the local Latino population is relatively small, Frey said. Many schools, social service agencies and government officials must, for the first time, deal with numbers of people who do not speak English very well, Frey said.
"You're the first kid on the block when you come into some of these neighborhoods and it's not always easy," Frey said. "There will have to be a little bit of accommodation from both the newcomers and the people already there."
Frey analyzed Census Bureau population estimates from 1990, 2000 and 2004 for 361 metropolitan areas in the United States.
In 2004, white non-Hispanics made up 67% of the American population, but they accounted for 18% of the population growth from 2000 to 2004. Hispanics, meanwhile, made up 14% of the population in 2004, whereas they accounted for 49% of the population growth since the start of the decade.
Blacks made up 12% of the population in 2004, and accounted for 14% of population growth from 2000 to 2004. Asians made up 4% of the population in 2004, and accounted for 14% of the population growth.
Those trends are expected to continue, with white non-Hispanics making up less than half the American population by about 2050, according to Census Bureau projections. Minorities already make up most of the population in four states: California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas.
Minorities make up 40% or more of the population in five other states: Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi and New York.
Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago continue to have the largest Latino populations in the country. But Latino populations are growing faster elsewhere.
From 2000 to 2004, Latino populations grew by more than 40% in six metropolitan areas: Atlanta; Cape Coral, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; Nashville; and Raleigh, N.C.
Latinos moved to those areas because their economies are creating jobs, said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington.
"New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have gotten expensive, and they haven't been growing as fast as Charlotte and Raleigh," Suro said.