The Miami Herald
Thu, Sep. 30, 2004

Hispanic population grows statewide

The Census Bureau estimated that Florida's Hispanic population has grown by 500,000 in four years, with South Florida leading the way.


South Florida's ethnic mix has become even more diverse since the 2000 Census, according to new estimates released today by the Census Bureau.

Going into the November election, Florida will have at least half a million more Hispanics than it did in 2000, almost half of them generated by South Florida growth.

In Miami-Dade County, the Hispanic majority grew from 57 percent to 60 percent in 2003. Broward County's Hispanic population climbed 28 percent, to reach one in five residents.

Broward's white non-Hispanic population is a majority at 53 percent, declining by 42,000 people since 2000. Miami-Dade's white non-Hispanic population dropped by about the same number and is now 19 percent of the total.

The big jump in Hispanic population is fed both by immigration and movement from Miami-Dade to Broward, said Thomas Boswell, a geography professor at the University of Miami who watches demographic trends.

''My sense is that you have a lot of well-off South American immigrants coming to places like Weston,'' Boswell said. ``You also have second-generation Hispanics moving out of Dade County and into Broward, partly because of the good housing that's there and also to put a little distance between them and their families in Dade County.''

West Indian immigrants from Haiti and Jamaica also are making their mark on Dade and Broward, jumping from 10 percent to 12 percent of the Broward population. West Indians make up about 8 percent of Miami-Dade's population.''

Miami-Dade is still the most Hispanic of the nation's two dozen largest urban counties -- those with a population of more than 1 million.

The Bronx in New York City joined the short list of those with a Hispanic majority, jumping from 48 percent to 51 percent Hispanic since 2000. The other Hispanic-majority large county is Bexar County, Texas, where San Antonio is located, which rose slightly to 56 percent.

Miami-Dade's black population grew slightly and remained at 22 percent of the population, while Broward's black population grew by 19 percent and remains at about 30 percent.

The Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C., said the number of Hispanic voters nationwide will have increased by about 20 percent, to 16 million, when compared to the 2000 presidential election, The Associated Press reported.

In Florida, 44 percent of Hispanic voters are naturalized citizens, but Florida-born Hispanics account for 83 percent of newly eligible Hispanic voters.

In Central Florida, the growing Puerto Rican community has traditionally cast its ballots for Democrats. Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties have seen an average 24 percent increase in the number of Hispanics from 2000 to July 2003.

Stan Smith, director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, predicts that in the next 25 years, Florida's Hispanic population will outpace the state's non-Hispanic white and black populations, largely because of migration and high birth rates.

The Cuban share of Florida's Hispanic population is declining, Smith noted. ``Twenty years ago they made up more than half of the state's Hispanics. Now it's down to 31 percent.''