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More sense of the census: Analysis looks at Latino population growth and reapportionment

State Latino Population Growth 2000-09, based on U.S. Census data
State Latino Population Growth 2000-09, based on U.S. Census data
Source: Latino Decisions

It's been nearly a month since the initial results of the 2010 census were released, and while details on the nation's racial and ethnic breakdown have yet to be made public, the polling firm Latino Decisions has distilled the early information, along with annual census data since 2000, into an analysis of Latino population growth and its political impact.

2010 census data is being used to reapportion Congressional seats based on population. The report points out that only eight states will gain representation: Texas will gain four seats, Florida two, and Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Georgia and South Carolina will each gain one.

Why these states? From the report:

Larger Latino presence in these states was essential to gaining additional representation. The 2010 ethnic and racial composition data are not yet public, but comparing 2000 and 2009 Census data it is evident that congressional delegation growth is attributable to Latino-specific population growth in these states.  As the figure below illustrates, the Latino share of state populations increased in every case. This is not a regional phenomenon: in 35 states across the country, their population more than doubled.

It is true that non-Latinos also netted gains, but Latinos out-paced others by rather strong margins.  Some states, including Louisiana, Rhode Island and Michigan actually had a net loss of non-Latinos and grew only because Latino increases offset the non-Latino population dip.  With all of these details in mind, it is fair to say that all new districts are Latino districts.

Noteworthy is the basic chart, above, that lists the percentage of Latino population growth in states between 2000 and 2009. According to the chart, South Carolina, which picked up one of the Congressional seats, led the states with its Latino population growing nearly 120 percent. California, meanwhile, was on the low end, its Latino population up only about 25 percent.

While a growing Latino population may be responsible for states gaining political seats, the report points out that the new seats don't necessarily give Latinos a political edge:

The difficulty for Latinos in the reapportionment and representation process is this: states will gain legislative representation due to surges in Latino population, yet millions contributing to the net population growth are not able to vote due to age or citizenship status.  One-third of all Latino American citizens are too young to vote, and another 12.8 million Latinos are not eligible due to citizenship status.

Furthermore, recent years have seen politics fueled with anti-Latino rhetoric and policy agendas that are diametrically opposed to Latino preferences.  Thus, it is uncertain how much substantive or descriptive representation Latinos stand to gain from upcoming redistricting despite their obvious national presence.