Jobs the big draw for Latino growth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2011

By Karissa Minn
The Latino population in Rowan County has nearly doubled over the past decade, according to 2011 U.S. Census data.
In 2000, 5,369 Rowan County residents identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. In 2010, that number rose to 10,644 in a 98.3 percent increase – much faster than the 6.2 percent overall growth in the county.
Latino residents now make up 7.7 percent of the county population, compared to 4.1 percent in 2000.
According to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, this reflects a statewide trend.
In North Carolina, the Latino population more than doubled from 378,963 to 800,120. Overall statewide growth was 18.5 percent.
About 8.4 percent of residents statewide identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, compared to 4.7 percent in 2000.
Dr. Gregory Weeks, associate professor with the department of political science at UNC Charlotte, said this trend likely is due to economic growth.
ěIn the South, you had things like … the growth of the banking industry in Charlotte that attracted a lot of people and created a lot of construction, so jobs were plentiful,î Weeks said. ěThere was a need for construction jobs and a need for service jobs.î
He noted the Latino population has been consistently high in rural areas and small towns where agricultural labor is in demand.
Weeks said this kind of growth cannot continue, but he still expects the Latino population will rise. He said people arenít likely to leave in high numbers even in the face of economic crisis.
The current economic downturn seems to have slowed Rowan Countyís overall population growth, though.
Owen Furuseth, associate provost for metropolitan studies at UNC Charlotte, said the countyís low growth rate could have something to do with the loss of manufacturing jobs.
ěIn the last decade ó during this period of recession, but even earlier in the decade ó manufacturing jobs have been particularly vulnerable,î Furuseth said.
He said the highest growth seems to be in counties close to Charlotte and other urban areas. Davie County, for example, is largely rural but is positioned close to Winston-Salem.
ěCabarrus and Iredell have higher rates of growth, too,î Furuseth said. ěItís easier for people to live in those counties and commute into jobs in Charlotte. Rowan is just beyond that.î
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.