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5Jul 2016
Jul 5, 2016

Census data shows rising young Latino workforce, whether Texas is ready or not

By JILL COWAN Follow @JillCowan
Staff Writer – DMN
Published: 23 June 2016 01:16 PM
Updated: 23 June 2016 03:30 PM

In particular, the state’s growing population of young Latinos will fundamentally change the workforce of the future — which means that lingering education gaps among ethnic groups could hurt the economy as America’s white population ages.

From 2010 to 2015, almost three-quarters of Texas’ counties saw their white populations decline while only about 7 percent of counties saw losses in the Hispanic population.

The difference was also marked in child populations. Roughly 77 percent of counties lost white residents age 19 and under, while only 30 percent of counties had decreases of Hispanic children.

“The growing diversity of the child population points to a future where [ethnic and racial] distinctions that we’re making are going to be much less meaningful … but people tend to think in the short term,” said Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau, which analyzes U.S. demographic trends. “Kids are going to make up the workforce, and it doesn’t bode well for anyone — for the kids who are [educationally disadvantaged] or for the broader economy.”

Over the same time, the state gained more than 2.3 million residents, the data shows — “phenomenal growth,” said Steve Murdock, former state demographer and head of Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas.

In other words, the state’s Latino population is a driving force behind booms in Texas’ overall population and in its population of young people who are in school and preparing to enter the workforce.

Mike Cline, associate director of the Hobby Center, said those numbers were, in some senses, continuations of running trends. The state hasn’t had a majority racial group since 2003, he said, and Texas has long been projected to have a majority of Hispanic residents by 2035.

Furthermore, the years-long job explosion in metro areas like Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin has contributed to gains in those areas’ child populations.

DISD schools

Looking ahead, the numbers suggest that school systems in Texas’ big cities face hurdles.

“It impacts schools for sure,” Cline said. “The counties that gain childhood population are going to have a tougher time.”

That’s something that’s been on Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis’ mind as the district grapples with ways to address a large population of Latino students for whom English is a second language.

He sees Dallas as a microcosm for national demographic shifts.

“The next great American generation is driven by Latinos because we’re young and we’re growing extremely quickly,” he said.

As a result, he said, it’s key that leaders tackle “big, existential challenges” in boosting educational attainment among the district’s Latinos — who make up the majority of students.

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