Archive for Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Hispanics fuel population jump

March 14, 2001

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— Kansas, long considered a rural breadbasket state of the nation, is more urban than a decade ago, and more diverse largely because the Hispanic population doubled.

Census figures released Tuesday showed 57 of the state's 105 counties lost population over the past decade, primarily in rural Kansas. A dozen rural counties, mainly in western Kansas, lost 10 percent or more of their residents.

Since 1990, Kansas' population increased 8.5 percent to 2,688,418 on April 1, 2000.

The figures showed the number of Kansas Hispanics of all races rose from 93,670 to 188,252 a 100 percent jump. In 1990, Hispanics made up 3.6 percent of the state's population; now it's 7 percent.

Nationally, the Hispanic population jumped by 58 percent over the last decade. "Hispanic" is considered an ethnicity, not a race; people of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race.

"I think it's a surprise for all of us. We knew it was increasing, but not by that amount," said Thelma Helyar, editor of the Kansas Statistical Abstract.

Even with the jump, there are many, including state Rep. Carlos Mayans, who believe the Hispanic population was undercounted.

"It may be misunderstanding or fear that this information will be used against them. Their experience with government back home never has been good," Mayans, R-Wichita, said.

Another growth spurt was shown among Kansas Asians, whose numbers grew by 47 percent. Asians and Pacific Islanders accounted for 31,750 of the state's population in 1990. In 2000, the census said, 46,806 Kansans were Asians representing 1.7 percent of the population. Another 1,313 listed themselves as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

In the 2000 headcount, people could identify themselves as a member of any of 63 racial categories, up from five in 1990.

Whites still were the majority of Kansans: 2,313,944, or 86 percent. The number represents a 3.6 percent increase.

Meanwhile, 5.7 percent of the state's population 154,198 is black. A decade ago, there were 143,076 blacks, also 5.7 percent.

In Kansas, 56,496 residents took advantage of the option to identify themselves as belonging to more than one race.

Not surprising, population shifted from the open ranges and wheat fields of western Kansas to the eastern side of the state with its larger towns and industries.

"Metro areas as a whole are growing. It's where most of the economic activity is located," said Norman Clifford, interim director for the Center of Economic and Business Analysis at the Kansas University. "People are going where there are opportunities."

Sedgwick County, including the state's largest city of Wichita, continued to lead counties in population with 452,869, an increase of 12.2 percent over the past decade.

Next in size is Johnson County, near the Kansas City metropolitan area, with 451,086, an increase of 27.1 percent the highest percentage growth over the decade.

There also were losses. In terms of population, Riley County had the biggest drop, with 4,296 people leaving in the past decade, a 6.4 percent decrease. Part of that loss was attributed to downsizing at nearby Fort Riley.

Exceptions to declining populations in western Kansas are areas around Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal the Golden Triangle of Meatpacking. In those areas, population increased, largely because of Hispanic workers at the packing plants.

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