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Hispanic Population Continues To Rise In Iowa

Hispanic Population Continues To Rise In Iowa

More than 151,000 Iowans claimed Hispanic or Latino origin on the 2010 census questionnaire. This is the largest minority group in the state at 5%, says a new report from Iowa State University.

More than 151,000 Iowans claimed Hispanic or Latino origin on the 2010 census questionnaire. This is the largest minority group in the state at 5%, as detailed in the Iowa State University Extension report "Race and Hispanic Origin in Iowa's Counties, 1980-2010."  The report was released in June 2011.

The White group in Iowa still outnumbers other groups, at 91%, but minority groups have increased by 11.3% in the last decade. The number of Whites increased by nearly 33,000, whereas minority groups increased by 130,000.

The Hispanic (any race) minority group increased the most in Iowa over the last decade. "For some of these counties and communities, there are many minority people, and in other areas there are relatively few," says Sandra Burke, assistant scientist in economics at ISU. "In a number of these counties, it's going to be largely an increase in the Latino/Hispanic population."

Crawford & Buena Vista Counties have highest percentage Hispanic

Crawford County and Buena Vista County had the highest percentage of Hispanics, 24.2% and 22.7% respectively. Many other counties reported more than 10% Hispanic/Latino population.

"Those counties have had more Hispanic and Latino people taking the hard jobs in the meat plants, as well as jobs in ag processing, construction and hotel service; perhaps more than other racial groups have shown at this point," Burke says. The full report is available for download on the Community Vitality Center website at

Iowa's youth population has declined, according to 2010 Census

Iowa's 17 and younger age group decreased according to 2010 census results. According to the Community Vitality Center report, "Population 18 and Older and 17 and Younger in Iowa's Counties, 2000 – 2010," Iowa's youth population has decreased by 5,645 in the last decade. The full report is available on the Community Vitality Center website at

Burke says some counties have experienced significant growth in the youth population even though Iowa's overall youth population decreased by 0.8% in the last decade. "There has been a reshuffling across the state as to where youth are located. There has been a surge in the most urban counties and a decline in the more rural ones," she explains. "This distinctly impacts schools because a lot of community activities revolve around the school. It's where children are during the day, and many activities and sports take place during the evenings."

Burke credits fewer births as the main reason for the youth decline in the state, but outmigration and the ongoing recession also aided in the decline.

"The recession colors everything for every age group. It affects older people trying to retire or keep their jobs and it affects younger people trying to get jobs. In a recession, people typically delay marriage and they delay having children. There were three to four years of recession prior to the 2010 census that help account for fewer births," she says.

Iowa's unincorporated areas lose population in 2010 Census

Iowa's unincorporated areas (the countryside outside any town or city limits) lost population according to the 2010 census, reversing a gain seen in the 2000 census, as detailed in the report "Countryside and Town: Population in Iowa's Counties Within and Outside of Incorporated Places, 1990 – 2010." The report is available for download from the Community Vitality Center site at

ISU economist Sandra Burke says the gain seen between 1990 and 2000 was due, in part, to residents living on acreages and in unincorporated developments. It is somewhat surprising to see losses from open-country areas in some of Iowa's larger counties. Annexation activities on the part of communities might account for some of those losses.

"What's happening in some of these areas that are traditionally more rural and farm-based is that they are aging out. Younger residents are graduating high school and not returning, and gradually you lose people in the child-bearing age group," says Burke. "You don't have many children born in these areas and older residents are retiring off their farms."

Burke says the unincorporated areas are not the same as the census's rural data, since the rural data include small towns. She says towns are better at holding their populations, but the loss in countryside areas does affect businesses in towns, especially in small- to medium-sized towns. "As there is a loss of population base, that will impact the kinds of retail operations you can support in a smaller community," she adds.

Burke says some of the challenges for Iowa will be to look at farm succession trends, and work with young farmers to come in and take over operations from retiring farmers. She also says finding young entrepreneurs and their families to come into smaller towns to build businesses will be a key effort to maintaining population and vitality.

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