December 21, 2010 / 1:56 PM / 9 years ago

As U.S. becomes more diverse, Hispanics flourish

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The U.S. Hispanic minority is rapidly expanding across the country from its traditional base around the Mexican border region and will nearly triple to about 130 million by mid-century, census data shows.

“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 2050, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections. By then, nearly one in three U.S. residents will be Latino, the Census Bureau projects.

There are more than 45 million Hispanics in the United States, double the number 20 years ago, according to the American Community Survey that drew on five-year estimates from 2005 to 2009. Its data was made available in advance of the 2010 Decennial Census released on Tuesday.

While long a presence in areas like California, Arizona and Texas, Latinos are increasingly moving to across the country to work. In Georgia and North Carolina, for example, their share of the population has grown by nearly 50 percent since 2000.

One example is Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, which includes the city of Charlotte and where one in five children born is to Hispanic mothers.

‘MORE DIVERSE FUTURE’

The rapid in the minority’s population growth in part is a result of increased economic immigration from Mexico and Latin America, which has helped swell the U.S. foreign-born Hispanic population to 37 million, from 31 million a decade ago.

But it also points to a relatively high birth rate among Hispanics, who tend to be younger parents and have larger families than their white and black neighbors, analysts say.

“The reason why we’re seeing relatively robust growth in that group has to do with their age structure,” said Audrey Singer, a demographer with Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

“They are younger than whites, they’re younger than blacks ... they’re in their family creation years, and there’s been relatively high immigration at least up to the (2007-2009) recession,” she said.

“Looking to the future, we are going to see an even more diverse population in the U.S.,” Singer told Reuters. “Part of that will be through intermarriage, children born to couples from different races. We are just looking at a much more diverse future,” she said.

Editing by Peter Bohan and David Storey

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