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05132009 Latino Pop Us Census
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05132009 Latino Pop Us Census

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Forty-five percent of all children under the age of 5 in Sonoma County are Latino, according to data the U.S. Census Bureau says is a prelude to next year’s decennial population count. …

Forty-five percent of all children under the age of 5 in Sonoma County are Latino, according to data the U.S. Census Bureau says is a prelude to next year’s decennial population count.
That figure represents nearly a 40 percent jump over 2000 figures, fueled by birthrate and immigration and continues a trend seen over the past decade.

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  • 1. By MARTIN ESPINOZA THE PRESS DEMOCRAT Published: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 7:22 p.m. CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/THE PRESS DEMOCRAT Two kindergarten classes sing songs at Douglas White Elementary School Wednesday. Forty-five percent of all children under the age of 5 in Sonoma County are Latino, according to data the U.S. Census Bureau says is a prelude to next year’s decennial population count. That figure represents nearly a 40 percent jump over 2000 figures, fueled by birthrate and immigration and continues a trend seen over the past decade. Census data released today also shows that the county’s total Latino population is currently 23.2 percent, up from 17.3 percent in 2000. “The changing demographics of the county should be a wake-up call to policy makers and local officials,” west Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo said. Carrillo, a west Santa Rosa resident who became the board’s first Latino member, said the county’s ongoing population shift carries broad and lasting implications in education, the workforce and public health. In all county schools, the current Latino population for students K-12 is 35 percent. But the proportion in local schools varies from one district to the next, in some cases providing significant language and economic challenges. In the Santa Rosa High School district, Latinos comprise 33.7 percent of the school population, with the city’s elementary district totaling 52.6 percent Latino. “If you want to look to the future you need to look no further than who is in our schools, K-12,” said County schools chief Carl Wong. In Healdsburg Unified, Latino students total 56.6 percent of the population; at Petaluma Joint Union High School District they total 23 percent and at Petaluma’s elementary district they are 30 percent. Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified shows 28.4 percent Latino population and in the West Sonoma County Union High School District Latinos make up on 13.8 percent of the student population. Wong said one of the biggest challenges facing Sonoma County schools is the current achievement gap between Latino students and white students. That gap again became evident Tuesday, when the state released a report on drop-out rates. The report found that the drop-out rate for Latino males in Sonoma County was 31.8 percent, almost twice the rate of 16.8 percent for white males. Wong said such education gaps would have to be bridged if Latinos are to become the county’s “future leaders and government elected officials.” Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, said today’s census data “tells us we need to do something different and we need to do it fast.” Maldonado said that while it is critical to prepare as many young people as possible for college, those who choose not go that route should not be cast off.
  • 2. “I think it’s time for us to look at creating more vocational education, which has been decimated in high schools,” she said. “Not everyone goes to college right after high school.” Maldonado said local economic development should focus on the creation of a wider range of jobs “where your choice is not just working at Wal-Mart or going off to college.” The Census Bureau data for children under 5 reflects a current trend in Sonoma County birth rates, said Mary Maddux-Gonzalez, the county’s public health officer. Of all births in 2007, about 45 percent were Latino babies, she said. Maddux—Gonzalez said that five years from now, 45 percent of kindergartners will be Latino and in 2025, 45 percent of those entering the local workforce will be Latino. She said Latino immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, tend to have lower death rates from cancer, heart disease and stroke. But these “better health outcomes,” she said, tend to decrease the longer Latinos live in the United States, as well as with subsequent generations. For those born in the United States, higher education attainment is strongly associated with better health, she said. “What’s really important is when you look at the children,” she said. “The investments we make in children’s education is an investment in their health.” At the national level, today’s Census data showed that 36 states had lower Latino growth in 2008 compared to the year before, partly because of stricter immigration policies and an ailing economy. But in Sonoma County, the 3.8 percent growth in the overall Latino population held steady in 2008. Six U.S. counties saw their minority populations become the majority, including Orange County, Fla., the nation’s 35th most populous county that is home to Orlando. Webster County in Georgia was majority-minority in 2007 but reverted back to white majority in 2008. In all, about 309 of the nation’s 3,142 counties, or 1 in 10, have minority populations greater than 50 percent. Other counties that become majority-minority in 2008 were Stanislaus in California; Finney in Kansas; Warren in Mississippi; and Edwards and Schleicher counties in Texas. Other findings: -- There are 48 majority Hispanic counties nationally; the top 10 were all in Texas. The gateway cities of Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston and Chicago had the greatest number of Hispanics. -- Seventy-seven counties are majority-black; all were in the South. Atlanta edged past Chicago in the number of blacks, ranking second after New York City. They were followed by Washington and Philadelphia. -- Honolulu County, Hawaii, was the only majority Asian county in the nation. New York City had the highest population of Asians, surpassing Los Angeles. Asians also numbered the most in San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; and Chicago. Francisco Vasquez, director of Sonoma State University’s Hutchins Institute for Public Policy Studies, said the number of Latinos in local government will quickly increase. But he said if the social economic challenges facing Latinos are not addressed, the county could see a growing “under-class.” The 2008 census estimates used local records of births and deaths, tax records of people moving within the U.S., and census statistics on immigrants. The figures for “white” refer to those whites who are not of Hispanic ethnicity. Since the government considers “Hispanic” an ethnicity, people of Hispanic descent can be of any race. Press Democrat News Researcher Michele Van Hoeck and the Associated Press contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. Staff Writer Kerry Benefield.