MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin's Hispanic population grew by 74 percent in the past decade, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau that mirror a trend going on across the nation.
The 2010 count showed there were 336,056 Hispanics in the state, an increase of 143,135 from 2000. Latinos now account for 5.9 percent of Wisconsin's total population.
"I think it's a very good thing for the state and I think these numbers are going to force people to really look, re-look at the Hispanic community, with regards on how they are being served in the private sector," said Darryl Morin, director of Wisconsin League of United Latin American Citizens.
Morin said the increase in Hispanic residents would be felt at the ballot box, particularly "during these politically charged times."
Richelle Winkler, the associate director of the Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Hispanic women tend to have higher birth rates than whites and that most of the state's Hispanic women are in their child-bearing years. There also was continued immigration and a migration of more Hispanics to Wisconsin from other states, Winkler said.
A similar spike in Hispanics is going on around the Midwest and much of the rest of the country. Indiana's Latino population increased 82 percent, Iowa's 84 percent and Ohio's 63 percent.
She said newer populations such as Hispanics tend to follow the manufacturing jobs. In Wisconsin, they tend to be taking a lot of dairy jobs in rural areas, she said.
If it wasn't for the growth in Hispanics, many rural counties would have lost more population, Winkler said. For example, 10.3 percent of the population of Walworth County is Hispanic.
The state's largest county, Milwaukee County, had the largest total number of Hispanics with 126,039, followed by Dane County with 28,925.
Morin said Latinos are providing a much needed workforce in the dairy industry, construction and white collar jobs in science and academics. He also hopes that local officials notice the population shift and allocate more money to issues that affect Hispanic community, such as bilingual instruction.
"We cannot let that fact of our growth in our numbers be lost when the budgets are being assigned and apportioned for the state," he said.
Other findings in the local Census release include:
— Blacks are still the largest minority group, making up 6.3 percent of the population. There were 359,148 blacks in the state, an increase of 18 percent.