As U.S. becomes more diverse, Hispanics flourish

Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:07am EST
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By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Hispanics in the United States are breaking out of traditional strongholds in the Southwest and making their homes in states where they never had much of a footprint before, according to data emerging ahead of this year's U.S. census data.

"For a long time Latinos were a fact of life in the American Southwest, and that was it," said John Weeks, a professor of geography and director of the International Population Center at San Diego State University.

"But over the last 20 years, there has been just a mushrooming of migrants into places like Charlotte (North Carolina), originally brought there to do construction."

Latinos are leading the transformation of the United States, where ethnic and racial minorities are expected to become the majority by mid-century, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.

There are more than 45 million Hispanics in the United States, double the number 20 years ago, according to the American Community Survey released this month ahead of the 2010 Decennial Census data being released on Tuesday. The survey drew on five-year estimates from 2005 to 2009.

While long a presence in the states bordering Mexico such as Arizona, Latinos are increasingly moving to the U.S. interior to work in states like Georgia and North Carolina, where the number of Hispanics as a proportion of the population has grown by nearly 50 percent since 2000.

A sign of that growth is in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, which includes the city of Charlotte -- one in five children now born there are to Hispanic mothers.

"This city is no longer thought of as being a 'Southern town,'" said Rocio Gonzalez, of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Charlotte, speaking of the city's transformation.   Continued...