LOS ANGELES — The Hispanic population in California soared by 43 percent over the past decade and nearly one out of every three state residents is a member of the fast-growing ethnic group, according to U.S. census figures released Thursday.
The strong Hispanic growth in California coincides with dramatic increases reported by the Census Bureau in other states. In Arkansas, the bureau reported a 337 percent increase in Hispanics and Florida logged a 70 percent growth rate for Hispanics.
While the growth in California was not as steep in terms of percentage, the sheer numbers were significant, experts said.
“The growth outside of California reflects a continuous progress of Latinos moving out of traditional areas, but there’s also a continued concentration in the places they were before,” said Leo Estrada, an urban planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “There’s enough population growth to allow that to continue simultaneously.”
The number of Hispanics grew by 3.3 million in the 1990s, from 7,687,938 in 1990 to 10,966,556 in the decennial survey taken in April, 2000. The state’s overall population, meanwhile, grew 13.8 percent to 33.9 million people.
The Hispanic population nationally grew by 58 percent to 35.3 million, or about 13 percent of the U.S. population. Nearly one in every three Hispanics nationwide lives in California.
“I think it’s kind of peculiar and kind of comical that people are shocked that the number of Latinos are going up,” said Gregory Salcido, 32, a history teacher at El Rancho High School in the predominantly Hispanic suburb of Pico Rivera, east of Los Angeles. “No matter where you go, you’ll see people my skin shade and who have a last name that ends in a vowel and are bilingual, which is a great skill.”
California remains a key destination for newly arrived Hispanic immigrants and growth also is occurring among Hispanics who have long made the state their home, said Albert Camarillo, a history professor at Stanford University.
Past Census statistics and more recent state data show that about two-thirds of the increase in the Hispanic population has been due to natural increase – or more births than deaths. Immigration has accounted for only about one-third of the Hispanic population’s growth, Camarillo said.
“We’re also seeing the second- and third-generations are moving to the suburbs, which has been true for the last 20 years,” Camarillo said Thursday. “When people have the economic means, they will leave the more concentrated Mexican-American barrios.” Census 2000 showed the suburban area of San Bernardino County registering a 77 percent increase in Hispanics in the 1990s; the ethnic group makes up 39 percent of the county’s 1.7 million residents.
The growth rate was less robust in Los Angeles County, which has more Hispanics than any other county in the state. The Hispanic population in the county increased 27 percent to 4.2 million – or about 45 percent of the 9.5 million county residents.
The competition for jobs among immigrants in the greater Los Angeles area may be a contributing factor to the slower growth rate among Hispanics, Camarillo said.
In some of the state’s largest cities, Hispanics made up sizable portions of the population. Of the 3.7 million residents in Los Angeles, about 1.7 million, or 47 percent, identified themselves as Hispanics.
In San Diego, 25 percent of the city’s 1.2 million residents were Hispanic, while 38 percent of Riverside’s 255,166 residents listed themselves as part of the ethnic group.
In San Francisco, 14 percent of its 776,733 residents identified themselves as Hispanic.
Hispanics, of course, have a long relationship with California, which was part of Mexico until it was lost in 1848 following the U.S.-Mexico War.
Signs of the region’s Hispanic roots can be found throughout the place once called Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula (Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula), which has been shortened to Los Angeles.
KMEX-TV, a Spanish-language station that is the flagship of the Univision Television Group, has the highest rated newscasts in Los Angeles, regardless of language, according to Nielsen Media Research.
In 1998, the state also elected its first Hispanic to a statewide office since 1871 when Cruz Bustamante became lieutenant governor.
In the upcoming Los Angeles mayoral race, Antonio Villaraigosa, 48, and Xavier Becerra, 43, are vying to become the city’s first Hispanic mayor in more than a century.
Salcido, the high school history teacher, also has become active politically and is in his first term as a Pico Rivera city councilman.
“I truly believe that the things I want for my wife and family and the security I’m looking at for my friends, those are the same things that someone in Toledo, Ohio wants,” Salcido said. “Allow us to be a part of the American dream, just as everyone else has wanted and has been able to take a part in. We don’t want to take away from anyone, we just want to get in.”
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