Census results underscore importance of state’s Latino population

As the numbers from the 2020 Census arrive there are strong signs that the fast-growing Hispanic-Latino population is poised to acquire greater political influence at the national and state levels.

To a large extent, the exact impact of a 30-percent increase of those residents identified in the decennial headcount as Hispanic or Latino is pending the current redistricting of congressional and legislative seats which will be a major consideration of who will run and where.

At this point, according to Miguel Castro, chairman of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, “The Census figures are one of many factors being considered.”

So far, two Hispanic candidates have gotten an early jump in races where their community has not enjoyed previous success. Former state Senator George Logan of Ansonia is running for Congress and state Rep. Hilda exploring a run for secretary of the state.

If anything, the upsurge in the Hispanic/Latino count was just enough to outweigh a 10 percent decrease in the still predominant non-Hispanic white population to produce a less than one percent overall gain in the statewide count and to help the state avoid losing one of its five congressional seats.

Meanwhile, the Census figures in regard to the age and multi-racial composition point to demographic forces that already underlying the state’s socio-economic environment.

Notably, while the median age of the population already was estimated to be among the highest in the nation and is close to that of Florida, the latest Census data shows that the under-18 population fell by 10 percent with those in the non-Hispanic white category declining a 27 percent. At the same time, the Hispanic and Latino under-18 population has gone from one in four of this population to one in five.

“Connecticut will need to invest in Latino children,” observed Werner Oyanadel, Latino and Puerto Policy director for the Connecticut General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equality and Opportunity (CWCSEO), a body set up to provide targeted advice to the legislature.

According to Oyanadel, some of the areas that Latinos will want to address include greater equity in policies impacting access to health care and provisions for higher quality in public education.

Another area that Oyanadel found significant in the Census figures released so far is a huge increase in the number of people who identify themselves as two or more races.

According to Oyanadel’s calculations, the Census saw some other race category has increased nationally 567 percent to 33.8 million people or 10 percent of the population.

The vast majority (94 percent) of these responses are from people of Hispanic or Latino origin identifying as “Mexican,” “Latino” and other Hispanic origin groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Connecticut, those falling into this category have increased 131 percent of 137,569 people, with most likely to be part Latino, according to be Oyanadel.

Based on this data, Oyanadel said, Latinos need to be viewed not as a minority but more as the state’s second-largest population group.

Since 2010, Connecticut’s total population has grown by less than one percent, 32,000 residents, to 3,605,944. However, those residents identified as Hispanic and Latino in the decennial headcount increased from 13.4 in 2010 to 17.3, a 144,000 person jump and now totals over 623,000 people.

This is a 30 percent surge as compared to a 10 percent drop in non-Hispanic whites, also down from 77.6 to 66.4 percent of the total population, and an 8 percent increase in Blacks (less than 11 percent overall) and a 29 percent increase in Asians (4.8 percent).

In Connecticut, non-Hispanic whites are slightly higher in proportion than the 57.8 national figure and well above the under 40 percent data in California, Hawaii, and Texas.

In addition, African Americans, less than 11 percent, Asians and Pacific Islanders nearly five percent of the state’s population.

Looking forward to the nationally crucial 2022 congressional elections, with all five Connecticut seats held by Democratic incumbents, Republican Logan, whose background is part Latino, has already announced he is running in the Fifth District.

In regard to the state General Assembly seats, this configuration will need to accommodate population growth focused on nine of the ten largest cities as well in several adjacent towns such as East Hartford.

One of the more interesting dichotomies involves the figures for Stamford and Hartford. The former is expected to gain representation due to a 10 percent gain in its total population which includes a 30 percent increase in Hispanic or Latino residents, bringing this diverse community up to 28 percent of the city’s 135,470 residents.

Meanwhile, Hartford, as the only one of the state’s largest cities to lose population. is likely to need some clever reconfiguring to keep its current six state House seats. The capital city has seen a 4.1 gain in the Hispanic population however there have been significant decreases in white and black residents.

Hartford was and remains the city with the highest share of residents of color, with 44 percent identifying as Hispanic or Latino and 35.5 percent as Black in 2020, both less than a percentage point different than 2010.

The Holy Grail for Connecticut’s politically active Latinos has been the state’s six statewide constitutional office. So far even getting a major party nomination has eluded this population.

The closest Latinos have come is as runners-up in state primaries: Gerald Garcia in 2010 for secretary of state and Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman in 2018 for lieutenant governor, both as Dem.

Four years ago state Rep. Matt Lesser, now a state senator, had explored running for secretary of state as a Democrat. But when the incumbent Denise Merrill opted to seek a fourth term, Lesser, whose maternal heritage is Latino backed out.

This year, Merrill, 72, has announced she will not seek re-election and opening the door for Santiago and others to run for this office.

One factor which could impact the political clout of the growing Hispanic population is its source. Migrants from Puerto Rico are already citizens and can vote but those from Central and Latin America have to go through the naturalization process.

While continuing to pore over the available Census data, Oyanadel is looking forward to the breakdown by nationality of the rising Hispanic-Latino population, which he said may not arrive until 2022.

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