March 14, 2011 | Tuscaloosa News | Original Article

County’s Hispanic population nearly triples in 10 years



Tuscaloosa County’s Hispanic population grew by 180 percent in the past decade, more than the state average, according to census data.

The U.S. Census Bureau counted 5,949 Hispanics in the county during the 2010 Census, nearly triple the 2,130 Hispanics counted in the 2000 Census. The group accounts for 3.1 percent of the 194,656 people counted in the county.

Statewide Census figures show the state’s Hispanic population grew from 75,830 to 185,602, a 145 percent growth rate.

Isabel Rubio, executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, said her Birmingham-based group believes the increase comes from births, not immigration.

Demographers and Hispanic advocacy groups contend it’s likely the Census did not accurately count all the Hispanics living in the state or county.

The Census is charged with counting people living in the United States in April 2010, whether they live here legally or illegally, and the bureau says it does not pass on information to other branches of the federal government.

Major Hispanic and Latino organizations tried to get the word out last year about the Census to ease what can be a common distrust of government among Hispanics, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Rubio said Alabama’s numbers are still not accurate, but come closer than they have in the past.

“It’s just a hard job, and people who don’t want to be counted can avoid being counted,” said Annette Watters, demographer.

Watters said Hispanics are undercounted in Tuscaloosa County, but couldn’t say how many are estimated to be in the county.

Whatever the actual number, the Census count is impressive considering in the 1990 Census counted 948 Hispanics.

In 2000, Hispanics made up 1.3 percent of the county’s population. Also, of the 29,781 more people in the county in the 2010 Census than in 2000, 12.8 percent of those are Hispanics, according to Census data.

Most Hispanics live in the county’s two largest cities, Tuscaloosa and Northport. The city of Tuscaloosa has 2,705 Hispanics, according to the Census count.

Despite the growth in the group, whites still account for about two-thirds of Tuscaloosa County with 129,004 telling the Census they are white. Blacks make up nearly 30 percent of the county.