One of the two ethnic populations that have been drivers of Bartholomew County’s population growth for more than a decade has slowed considerably.
The local Hispanic population grew by more than 3,000 people during the 10-year period from 2000-2010 — an average of about 300 people per year, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the Hispanic population grew by less than 350 people total during the most recent five years, from 2010-2015.
Comparatively, the local Asian population that grew by about 1,300 people from the 10-year period of 2000-2010 experienced a jump of more than 2,000 from 2010-2015.
Nationwide, the Hispanic population in the U.S. grew by 15 million from 2000 to 2010 — an average of 1.5 million annually — but just under 6 million from 2010-15 — an average of 1.2 million each year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
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Multiple factors have contributed to the slowdown in the Hispanic population’s growth, according to local sources and a population expert.
Bartholomew County’s trend with the Hispanic population reflects what has happened nationwide, said Mark Mather, associate vice president — U.S. programs for the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit organization that informs people worldwide about population, health and the environment in order to advance their well-being.
The reason for the boom was twofold: Hispanics came to the U.S. looking for better opportunities, and while here they had children, Mather said. However, as that immigrant generation has aged, its fertility rate has dropped, he said.
That could explain how the local Hispanic population’s growth has slowed while at the same time its population in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has risen.
Babies born to immigrants would initially count in the overall population, but not in the school population until actually reaching school age. Bartholomew Consolidated’s Hispanic population grew from 512 students in the 2005-06 school year to 1,023 in 2010-11 — doubling during that five-year period — and to 1,585 last school year, according to school district data.
Lingering effects of the Great Recession have slowed increases in the number of Hispanics coming into the United States, and similarly to Bartholomew County, Mather said. While the recession officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, the effects lasted longer, causing fewer Hispanics to come to the U.S. or causing others to return to their native countries, he said.
Juan Carlos Ramirez, president of the Columbus Latin American Association, agreed with Mather’s assessment of the impact from the economy.
“One of the key factors for the slowing of Hispanic population growth in Bartholomew County is related with the job losses in different industries,” Ramirez said.
Mather said the decline in Hispanic immigration nationwide has been linked to job losses in the construction and manufacturing industries, and other occupations often filled by immigrants.
Impact of immigration policies
But stricter enforcement of immigration laws and greater anti-immigration rhetoric also have impacted the Hispanic population in the U.S., Mather and local sources said.
That’s been evident since 2010 with states trying to or successfully enacting stricter or anti-immigrant measures, said Denise Recarte, director of English Language Learning for Bartholomew Consolidated.
“These laws from 2010 seemed to be the pivot point for the immigration trend. And although Indiana hasn’t taken part in passing these types of laws, these actions in other places have ripple effects,” Recarte said. “And the Hispanic community, and the people I talk to, feel more uncertain and afraid about their situation here.”
Ruben Morales, owner of Morales Mexican Restaurant and Morales Supermarket, both near 25th Street and Central Avenue, said Hispanics are not immigrating to the U.S. as much because of greater risks and better opportunities elsewhere.
“It’s too risky for people to cross the border now,” he said.
The rhetoric of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump also makes them wary of what may be coming in the future, because of his derogatory comments about Hispanics and a desire to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Morales said.
Hispanics more recently are looking to Canada for opportunities because it’s easier to obtain a work visa there, Morales said.
Canada is taking another step to make it easier for Mexicans to come to its country. Canada announced in late June that by December it would drop visa requirements for Mexican visitors as a way to promote tourism and business, strengthen the countries’ ties and prevent illegal immigration.
One official with a local Hispanic assistance organization views the census data with a touch of skepticism, however.
The Hispanic population has not only been an underserved segment of the U.S. population, but also one that’s been underreported, said Sylvia Babcock, executive director of Su Casa Columbus, which provides programs, services and education.
“For me the data still reports growth and we see it firsthand in our community with continued growth in our school enrollment, increase in social service needs and an increase in Latino businesses,” Babcock said. “Overall it tells me that Latino families are still choosing Bartholomew County to live and raise their families.”
Here are examples of community resources that Bartholomew County’s Hispanic population uses.
Purpose: To connect community members to the information, resources, opportunties and people that will make them feel welcome and engaged in the Columbus community.
Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization
Purpose: Its nine area ethnic associations share their cultures and traditions with each other and with the Columbus community. CAMEO is a point of access for information and programming that recognizes and celebrates the changing face of the community.
Phone, email: Contact information for each association can be found on their pages on the website.
Su Casa Columbus
Purpose: Provides programs, services and education to increase the self sufficiency of members of the Latino population and advocates cross-cultural interaction within the community.