Census Shows Big Increase In Hispanics

ByGenaro C. Armas

W A S H I N G T O N, March 12, 2001 -- The number of Hispanics skyrocketed by roughly58 percent over the last decade, drawing virtually even withnon-Hispanic blacks as the nation's largest minority group, newlyreleased government figures showed today.

The figures from the national headcount showed there were35,305,818 Hispanics in 2000, slightly fewer than the 35,383,751non-Hispanic blacks.

It further documented the changing complexion of Americareflected in data released last week to several states.

And the American population grew even more complex. The new datashowed that 2.4 percent, or 6,826,228, of Americans identifiedthemselves as members of more than one race. The rapid change in diversity is "our big story," said JohnLong of the Census Bureau's Population Division.

Hispanic Considered Ethnicity

The Hispanic population surged 57.9 percent since 1990, from 22.3million in 1990 to 35.3 million in 2000. America's non-Hispanicblack population increased by 21.1 percent, to 35.4 million, whilethe non-Hispanic Asian population grew by as much as 74.3 percentto 11.5 million.

In the 2000 headcount, people could identify themselves asmembers of any of 63 racial categories, up from only fivecategories in the previous census. Thus, direct comparisons betweenthe two censuses are impossible. Also, "Hispanic" is considered an ethnicity, not a race;people of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. The growth rate for America's white population, in contrast tothat of minority groups, was much slower. The number ofnon-Hispanic whites increased by 5.3 percent, to 198.2 million, thefigures showed. Despite all the choices available to census respondents, "Theoverwhelming majority of the U.S. population — roughly 98 percent —reported only one race," said the Census Bureau's ClaudetteBennett.

The national-level figures come at the start of a hectic periodin which the Census Bureau must transmit by April 1 detailedpopulation data to all 50 states. Governors and state legislative leaders will use the data toremap congressional, state and local legislative districts. Thenumbers are also used to distribute over $185 billion per year infederal money among the states. However, the data officials will receive will present a moreelaborate picture of America, because people responding to the 2000census had far more options on how they could identify themselvesracially.

The 2.4 percent of all Americans in this census who said theywere of more than race was on target with previous governmentestimates of how many people would take advantage of thisfirst-time opportunity.

Respondents in 1990 could only select from one of fivecategories: "white," "black," "American Indian, Eskimo orAleutian," "Asian or Pacific Islander" and "some other race."

The 2000 census gave people the option of choosing from one of63 race options, including "white," "black or AfricanAmerican," "American Indian and Alaska Native," "Asian,""Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" and "some otherrace."

The figures released today confirmed long-held forecasts ofa growth in the Hispanic and Asian populations, which demographerssaid was spurred mainly by immigration.

For instance, the Census Bureau had estimated on Nov. 1 thatthere were roughly 32.8 million Hispanics. That's 2.5 million fewerthan reflected in the actual Census 2000 headcount.

The official numbers reflect how many people lived in America onApril 1, 2000.

Democrats contend the Census 2000 data could have accounted foreven more people had the actual headcount been statisticallyadjusted to protect against traditional undercounts of minorities,the poor and children. The Census Bureau said there was a net national undercount ofabout 1.2 percent of the population, or 3.3 million people, downfrom 1.6 percent or 4 million people in 1990. Most of thoseinvolved in an undercount were minorities, officials haveestimated. Republicans who oppose adjusting the raw figures have called the2000 headcount the "most accurate in history" and have said thatsuch an adjustment would inject even more errors into the count.The Constitution allows only for an actual enumeration, they haveargued.

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