U.S. Census: Hispanic population grows in most Kentucky counties

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By Dori Hjalmarson

Lexington Herald-Leader

PIKEVILLE — All but 12 Kentucky counties saw their Hispanic populations grow since 2000, and in more than a third of counties, Hispanic numbers at least doubled.

Growth in Hispanic and African-American populations statewide was higher than expected, said Michael Price, interim director of the Kentucky State Data Center.

In Fayette and Jefferson counties, the Hispanic population more than doubled. Fayette County’s Hispanic population cracked 20,000, nearly 7 percent of the county’s total 295,803.

Other minority populations grew far less quickly: Fayette’s black population grew by 21 percent, to nearly 41,000 or about 15 percent of the total, and those reporting multiple races grew by 75 percent.

More than half the state’s counties lost black population. That indicates a higher concentration of the African-American population in metro areas, Price said.

A lot of the state’s overall growth in minority residents was in Jefferson County, which had increases in the Hispanic, African-American and Asian populations.

Local analysts say Hispanic immigration to Kentucky has stabilized recently. A more permanent population means more children in schools and churches, and more need for business and government services, advocates say.

The Catholic Diocese of Lexington serves Spanish-language Mass in 18 parishes, including Pikeville and Harlan, and it now requires seminarians to study Spanish because of the population growth, said Sister Sandra Delgado, director of Hispanic ministry for the 50-county diocese.

In her 11 years in that role, she said, the Hispanic population has grown more stable, particularly in rural areas.

“Something that’s very visible is the number of children. Now we’re seeing these little kids, and a lot of teenagers in this area,” Delgado said.

Jobs and family considerations drive migration, said Andres Cruz, editor of La Voz Spanish-language newspaper in Lexington. The construction boom around 2006 drove a lot of migration, which started going down after the boom went bust.

“Immigrants were hit even harder during the recession,” Cruz said.

He said he thinks the immigrant population increase from 1990 to 2000 was greater than from 2000 to 2010.

School systems’ service activity for migrants has probably slowed across the state, but English-as-a-second-language services have increased, at least in Fayette County, said Jack Hayes, director of student achievement.

Spanish-speaking students make up about two-thirds of those receiving ESL services, Hayes said.