News Column

Hispanic Population Growth Slows In Tulsa County

May 17, 2012

Curtis Killman

The pace of growth among the Hispanic population in Tulsa County is slowing while the number of Latinos in outlying counties is taking off, according to just-released Census Bureau figures.

In Tulsa County, the Hispanic population increased by just 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to a Tulsa World analysis of Census Bureau figures being released Thursday. The county has not experienced a growth rate that small since at least 1990.

Meanwhile, several outlying counties saw double-digit population rate increases among the Hispanic population during the same one-year time period.

In Creek County for instance, the Hispanic population increased 13.9 percent, or from 2,152 to 2,452 in the past year, according to Census Bureaus figures.

Since 2000, the previous greatest one-year increase the Hispanic population in Creek County was 8 percent, which occurred during the 2001 to 2002 time period.

Other area counties with record, or near-record population rate increases among Hispanics from 2010 to 2011 were: Pawnee, 24.4 percent; McIntosh, 18.2 percent; and Nowata, 12.1 percent.

For Cris Lujan, pastor of a Spanish language church in Sapulpa, the numbers coincide with his recent experience.

As pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Viva in Sapulpa, Lujan said membership has grown from zero to about 50 people in four years.

"It has potential for continued growth," Lujan said. The church, sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Sapulpa, will likely have to move in the next year from its current location at 216 S. Main St. to accommodate anticipated growth in membership, Lujan said.

Sapulpa pastor Don Diehl said the church originally started as a cross-cultural church with a goal to reach out to area Hispanics.

"Our intent was to have a bilingual congregation and the Americano side just didn't take off and grow like we thought it would but there has been a lot of interest in the Hispanic side," said Diehl.

Since 2000, the Hispanic population in Creek County has increased 91 percent, from 1,285 to 2,452 people.

The greatest one-year rate of increase in the Hispanic population among Oklahoma counties was in Roger Mills County, which saw numbers there climb by 26.1 percent.

Statewide from 2010 to 2011, the Hispanic population increased by 15,613 people, or 4.7 percent, to 347,620.

Oklahoma and Tulsa counties saw the biggest gains in the total number of Hispanics, with population increases of 5,205 and 2,662 respectively.

The 4.8 percent gain in the Hispanic population in Oklahoma County was the second-smallest one-year increase since 2000, records show.

The Tulsa County Hispanic population was 69,245 in 2011, records show.

The slowing of the population gains among Hispanics in Tulsa County is likely reflective of the poor economy, according to one local observer.

"As the economy struggles, fewer jobs are available, thus reducing the attraction for Hispanic immigration," said Tina Pena, an advocate for DREAM Act Oklahoma, an affiliate of the United We Dream national advocacy network.

Pena called the higher population growth rates in the suburban and rural counties a "hopeful portent."

"A likely explanation is that Hispanic immigrants arriving over the past two decades of relative economic growth, have in large numbers experienced success in their pursuit of the American dream and rapidly becoming part of the mainstream," Pena said.

Nationwide, the Hispanic population increased by 3.1 percent since 2010. California had the largest Hispanic population of any state on July 1, 2011: 14.4 million.

The Hispanic share of the total population in Oklahoma increased from 8.9 percent to 9.2 percent from 2010 to 2011.

The Hispanic share of the total population in Tulsa County increased from 11 percent to 11.3 percent during the same time period. Hispanic population change 2010-2011

County Percent increase Total number Hispanic residents

Tulsa 4% 69,245

Creek 14% 2,452

Muskogee 7% 3,935

Oklahoma 5% 113,748

Okmulgee 11% 1,438

Osage 11% 1,516

Pawnee 24% 418

Rogers 10% 3,553

Wagoner 6% 3,710

*Figures rounded

Source: (c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)

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