Not much growth, but Hispanics surge

- By Gary Strauss USA TODAY

Rhode Island’s Hispanic population surged nearly 44% in the past decade, bolstering the Ocean State’s overall head count.

The state reported 1,052,567 residents in 2010, according to Census figures out Wednesday. That’s up just 0.4% — 4,248 residents — from 2000.

“If it hadn’t been for Hispanics, we would have lost for the first time,” said Mark Brown, manager of state planning and data.

Hispanics increased from 90,820, or 8.7% of Rhode Islanders, to 130,655, or 12.4%. About 78% of residents described themselves as white, down 6% from 2000. The non-Hispanic black population rose 27.8% to 64,890, representi­ng 6.2% of residents, vs. 4.8% in 2000.

“The state is more diverse, as is the case mostly everywhere,” said Michael White, director of Brown University’s Population Studies and Training Center.

Most of the diversity is in Providence, the state’s capital and biggest city, and surroundin­g Providence County, where Hispanics number 117,819 residents, or about 19% of the 626,667 population.

The city of Providence grew 2.5%, mostly due to Hispanics in service jobs, White said. Among the state’s five counties, Providence gained 0.8% and Washington County rose 2.8%. Bristol, Newport and Kent counties lost 0.6% to 3% of their population.

Rhode Island’s gains were the smallest since 1970-80, when the state was hit by cutbacks in U.S. Navy personnel and the population rose by just 429 people, or 0.05%.

“The modest overall growth is not a surprise,” White said. “We’ll be looking at the next round of Census data to understand the patterns.”

Slow growth doesn’t faze Brown.

“After New Jersey, we’re the most densely populated,” he said. “Economic booms may be tempting. But slow growth is good growth. There’s time to plan for infrastruc­ture.”

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