News Column

Idaho's Hispanic Population Growth Moves State Forward

March 11, 2013

Staff -- HispanicBusiness

Idaho state flag

To understand the country's changing demographic, look no further than the state of Idaho.

The Hispanic population in the state has grown by 73 percent over the past decade, according to a recent report from the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. If it wasn't for Hispanic population growth, many of the rural counties in Idaho would be losing population.

"Like the rest of the nation, Idaho is becoming more diverse, mainly because of its growing Hispanic population," Margie Gonzalez, executive director of the Commission on Hispanic Affairs, wrote in an email. "Every county in Idaho had an increase in its Hispanic population, while almost one half of Idaho's counties (all rural) had a decline in non-Hispanic population."

The comprehensive report uses 2010 U.S. Census data to examine the needs and issues facing Hispanics in Idaho. The report also helps government agencies target services and allows businesses to study workforce, social and consumer trends.

Idaho has approximately 176,000 Hispanics, according to the U.S. Census, up more than 74,000 since 2000. Nearly 45 percent are younger than 19 years old, countering the trend of an older, retired population in the state.

"Hispanics are more likely than other Idahoans to be in the labor force, employed or available for work," Gonzalez said. "This largely reflects the age distribution of the population. As a group, Hispanics are younger and less likely to be retired than non-Hispanics."

Among the major findings in the report:

-- 40 percent were born in Idaho, while 30 percent were foreign born.
-- 73 percent of Hispanics 5 years and older spoke English well or very well; 52 percent of native-born Hispanics spoke only English at home.
-- The median household income for Hispanics is $35,000, about $10,000 less than Caucasians.
-- Registration of Hispanic voters nearly double between 2006-08. The percentage that actually voted was at 81 percent in 2008.
-- Per capita buying power for Hispanics increased from $10,125 in 2005 to $15,355 in 2010.

Gonzalez said the Department of Labor is seeing an increase in Hispanic-owned businesses and that the state's companies are adapting to market to this growing population.

"My agency has worked very hard to collaborate with our partners to provide our constituents with the most current and accurate data on our Hispanic population in Idaho," she said. "Providing our constituents with the right tools they are able to customize their marketing strategies to provide outreach to our Hispanic population."

Gonzalez said that while about a quarter of the Hispanic workers are employed in lower-wage service occupations, the population is growing in political clout.

"This is an area where we have a couple of groups working towards increasing (political engagement). We currently have a huge gap."

A copy of the report is available here (PDF).

Source: (c) 2013. All rights reserved.

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