May 5, 2011 | Clarion-Ledger | Original Article

Census: Diversity grows in Mississippi

Mississippi's population has grown a bit older and less homogenized over the past decade, the Census Bureau revealed today in its demographic profiles report.

Mississippi is one of 12 states, along with the District of Columbia, to be included in the first such report released for the 2010 U.S. Census.

The profiles include information on age and sex distributions, race, Hispanic or Latino origin, household relationship and type, the group quarters population, housing occupancy (including vacancy status) and tenure (whether the occupant owns or rents).

The findings show that, as with the rest of the nation, the state's median age - 36 - has increased, but Mississippians are still relatively young, said Barbara Logue, state demographer.

"It's interesting to see the median age going from 33.8 in 2000 to 36 in 2010," Logue said, "but we still have one of the lowest median ages in the country."

That's not surprising, said Clifford Holley, interim director of the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi.

"It's a fact that we've always been one of the younger states."

By comparison, Florida's median age is 40.7. West Virginia's is 41.3, while Maine's is 42.7.

"That is a pretty good difference," Logue said.

Although Mississippi's median age is higher than D.C.'s 33.8, it's lower than those of the other 11 states whose demographic profiles also were unveiled today.

Besides Florida, West Virginia and Maine, the others are Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The bureau will release profiles for the other states and Puerto Rico on a rolling basis.

Mississippi's racial and ethnic profile also is expanding, Logue said.

"We are getting more diverse, but we are not as diverse as some states and not as diverse as the country as a whole," she said.

"Since 2000, the fraction of whites fell a bit and the fraction of African-Americans went up a bit."

Of the state's 2,967,297 residents, 59.1 percent are white, compared to 61.4 percent in 2000; 37 percent are black, compared to 36.3 percent a decade ago.

"Those are small changes," Logue said, "but the numbers for American Indians and Asians also went up a little.

"And the fraction of Hispanics almost doubled, from 1.4 percent to 2.7."

In Mississippi, the total number of Hispanics or Latinos - considered an ethnic, rather than a racial, group by the Census Bureau - is officially 81,481.

"I still believe that count is low, but it's a vast improvement over what they reported in 2000," said Bill Chandler Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. "And I believe the percentage of growth is greater than in any other state, although the numbers here are still relatively low, especially compared to Texas or California. We've tried to educate the (Hispanic/Latino) community about the importance of having as accurate a count as possible, but some are still nervous about filling out the forms."

Other findings for Mississippi:

•The percentage of houses occupied by owners is more than double the number of renter-occupied units: 69.6 percent to 30.4.

•The state's average household size is 2.58 people, while the average family size is 3.11.

•Of the nearly 3 million people in the state, there are more females (51.4 percent) than males (48.6 percent).