Hispanics become Dallas’ largest ethnic group; City’s 18% overall growth encouraging, Kirk says

By Dave Michaels and Joshua Benton
Staff Writers

Page 14A

Dallas’ Hispanic population doubled over the last decade, making Latinos the city’s largest ethnic group for the first time, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Monday.

Hispanics account for 422,587 – or 35.6 percent – of the city’s 1,188,580 residents, according to the census. Ten years ago, there were 210,240 Hispanics in Dallas, roughly 21 percent of the city’s population.

“That is incredible,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Steve Salazar. He said the rate of Hispanic growth in the city surprised him, even against a backdrop of forecasts predicting that Hispanic growth would be at the heart of the region’s and state’s overall population increase.

The number of white residents in Dallas fell about 14 percent, to 410,777. The city’s black population rose about 4.8 percent, to 304,824.

Total population in Dallas – the state’s second-largest city after Houston – rose 18 percent. The city’s population was 1,006,877 in 1990.

Mayor Ron Kirk said he was encouraged that Dallas is still adding population.

“Clearly a lot of the decline in our Anglo numbers has been population loss to some of our neighboring suburbs,” Mr. Kirk said. “But I am still encouraged that at least we have stopped the bleeding.”

Comparisons between the 2000 and 1990 counts are more complicated than past comparisons, because respondents last year for the first time could describe themselves as belonging to more than one racial or ethnic group. That resulted in 63 possible racial or ethnic categories, compared with five in 1990. In addition, respondents were asked whether they were Hispanic or non-Hispanic – in effect, doubling to 126 the number of possible combinations.

Most chose 1 category

In Dallas County, less than 1.3 percent of respondents checked more than one category for race, according to the Texas State Data Center at Texas A&M University, the official state liaison to the Census Bureau.

The city’s Asian population rose to 31,993, up 55 percent, while its American Indian population is now 3,705, up 3.5 percent.

The census figures are used to redraw congressional, legislative, city council, school board and other political districts. The data are also important for government officials deciding where to invest in new roads and other infrastructure, and for businesses planning new offices and stores.

Some Dallas Hispanic leaders said Monday that the figures reinforced their belief that Hispanics deserve increased representation on the City Council. Council member John Loza, one of two Hispanic council members along with Mr. Salazar, has said boundaries should be redrawn so Hispanic candidates have a fair shot at two more seats. The council has 15 members, including the mayor.

Redistricting commissioners and city officials will have to take into account the number of Hispanics who are either younger than 18 or are recent immigrants unable to vote, Mr. Salazar said.

Statewide, Hispanics represent about 40.5 percent of the population younger than 18 and 29 percent of the population older than 18, said Steve Murdock, director of the Texas State Data Center.

The enormous jump in the Hispanic population wasn’t a surprise to demographers, but other area residents might not have noticed its magnitude.

Dr. Paul Geisel, a professor of urban affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington, said urban areas such as Dallas have attracted large numbers of migrants from Mexico and Latin America because of the booming economy.

‘Not as visible’

“It’s such a young population that people don’t really see it,” Dr. Geisel said. “They’re busy working and taking care of their children, so they’re not as visible. But once you get into Oak Cliff, going up Jefferson Boulevard, you can tell something’s going on here.”

Census figures reinforced assumptions that the city experienced its most dramatic gains through growth in Far North Dallas and some central-city neighborhoods. Much of it was due to multifamily development, said Bob O’Neal, the director of research and information services for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Growth in the Uptown and Oak Lawn neighborhoods was well above the city average of 15 percent. And single-family housing developments in the Red Bird area added new residents as well.

The city of Dallas experienced some of its largest gains in Collin County – north of Interstate 635 and west of Preston Road.

“The most interesting thing about it is the city of Dallas is now the third-largest city in Collin County,” Mr. O’Neal said.

While demographers debated the impact of the city’s shifting racial makeup, some Dallas residents were more interested in the growth of the city’s total population.

In 1997, a Census Bureau population estimate pushed San Antonio ahead of Dallas as Texas’ second-largest city, thanks in large part to San Antonio’s aggressive annexation of its surrounding area. The minor shift clogged the talk-radio airwaves, causing howls of dismay in Dallas and glee farther south.

But the new numbers show Dallas is back in the No. 2 spot, topping San Antonio by 43,934 people.