October 1999, Volume 5, Number 4
Hispanics, Poverty, Southeast
The Census Bureau reported that there were 25.2 million
foreign-born residents of the US on July 1, 1998making them 9.3 percent
of US residents. In 1850, the foreign-born were 9.7 percent of the population
enumerated in the first Census of Population. The foreign-born share of
the US population reached its nadir in 1970, at 4.7 percent; it peaked at
14.8 percent in 1890.
About 10.7 million
of foreign-born residents are Hispanic, followed by 6.4 million foreign-born
Asian Americans. For more information:
On September 15, the Commerce Department released its
annual estimates of the US population by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex
for the US, 50 states, and 3,142 counties. The number of Hispanics increased
by 35 percent between 1990 and 1998, from 22.4 million to 30.3 million, while
the number of Asians rose 40 percent, from 7.5 million to 10.5 million.
The number of African Americans increased from 30.5 million
in 1990 to 34.4 million in 1998. The Census Bureau projected that the Hispanic
population would be larger than the non-Hispanic black population by 2004.
The American Indian population rose from 2.1 to 2.4 million.
California in 1998 had 10.1 million Hispanic residents,
followed by Texas (5.9 million); Florida (2.2 million); New York (2.6 million);
and Arizona (1 million). About 11 percent of US residents were Hispanic.
New Mexico had the highest share of Hispanic residents-- 40 percentfollowed
by California, 31 percent; and Texas, 30 percent. In Arkansas (49,000 Hispanics
in 1998); Georgia (220,000); Nevada (78,000); and North Carolina (161,000),
Hispanic populations more than doubled between 1990 and 1998.
New York had 3.2 million Black residents. Between 1990
and 1998, Florida registered the largest numerical increase (495,000) in
Black residents, followed by Georgia (430,000); Texas (382,000); Maryland
(232,000); and North Carolina (204,000). In 1998, 62 percent of District
of Columbia residents were African American. For more information:
. About 12.7 percent of the 271 million Americans34.5 million personslived
in households that had incomes below the poverty line in 1998the poverty
line was $16,660 for a family of four in 1998, and $13,003 for a family of
three. The share of US residents in nonmetro areas living in households
with incomes below the poverty line fell to 14.4 percent in 1998the
poverty rate in metro areas was 12.3 percent.
About 25.6 percent of Hispanics lived in below-poverty
level households, including 34 percent of Hispanic children.
The median income of American households rose to $39,000
in 1998, meaning that half of American households had incomes above $39,000,
and half had incomes below $39,000.
. In most cases, southeastern states have made the transition from Black-white
relations to Black-white-Hispanic relations smoothly. However, there have
been protests. Over 400 of the 600 residents of Bybee, Tennessee signed
a petition to prevent a Migrant Head Start center from opening on land leased
by a retired farmer for the center to care for the children of Hispanic migrant
If opened, the Migrant Head Start program, operated by
Raleigh-based Telamon Corp., would use federal funds and employ 25 people
to care for 50 children ranging in age from infancy to four years. A MHS
center planned for nearby Parrottsville was abandoned in 1997 because of
The protests against the MHS program included the burning
of a barn on the land that was being donated to build the center-- the FBI
was asked to investigate the arson as a possible hate crime. According to
the FBI, Hispanics were targeted in more than half the ethnic-related hate
crimes in the US 1997--- 491 of 836. The farmer whose barn was burned said:
"You'd never get any of the white people to do the job [tobacco work].
---If it weren't for the migrants, [farming] would be over."
Local residents say that migrants are attracted to the
area by two large tobacco farms; some assert that the migrants displace local
workers and depress wages and working conditions. Workers harvest tobacco
by cutting and spearing about 1,000 stalks a day for $100: the tobacco is
then hung in barns to dry. The Head Start project is now on hold pending
an environmental study.
The INS is creating 45 Quick Response Teams to deal with
immigration in rural and agricultural areas that have had recent influxes
of immigrants. For example, Latino immigrants have moved into Dalton, Georgia
to work in the carpet industry. Other states with INS Quick Response Teams
are Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska,
South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
The Missouri General Assembly in August created an Interim
Committee on Immigration which will hold hearings around the state on the
impact of immigration on schools, law enforcement, health agencies and local
Immigrants at the beginning of the 20
th century avoided the southeast; immigrants
at the end of the 20 th
century are attracted to the southeast by jobs in agriculture and manufacturing.
In Georgia, local observers say: "In Dalton, they (Hispanic immigrants)
are in the carpet industry; in Gainesville (Georgia.), it's poultry; in metro
Atlanta, it's construction." In the Dalton area, the number of Hispanics
is estimated at 25,000 to 50,000 in a county that in 1990 had a population
The Courier-Journal on July 20, 1999 ran several articles
on the changing face of Kentucky, noting that the influx began with southeast
Asian refugees in 1975, and has accelerated as Hispanics moved into the state
in the 1990sthere are about 5,000 Vietnamese and 5,000 Hispanics in
Louisville. Kentucky's Employment Service estimates that 70 percent to 80
percent of the 25,000 farm workers who cut and hang tobacco are Hispanic
and the majority are in the US illegally.
For the first time, Belle Glade, Florida has a black
majority on its five-member city commission. Fifty-four percent of Belle
Glade's voters, many from the Caribbean, are Black. The city commission
says it hopes to move municipal elections to March, because during September,
most of Belle Glade's migrant farm workers are out of town.
Gil Klein, "A growing number of Hispanics settling
in south," Times-Picayune, October 3, 1999. Larry Hobbs, "Belle
Glade has first majority black commission," Palm Beach Post, October
2, 1999.Kit Wagar, "Panel to study Hispanic influx in Missouri,"
Kansas City Star August 29, 1999. Kathy Scruggs, "Heated passions over
a Head Start for migrant children come to a head as program backer hit by
suspicious fire," Atlanta Journal and Constitution, August 26, 1999.
Mark Bixler, "INS teams help state's cities deal with illegals,"
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 12, 1999. Linda Stahl. "Immigrants
give Kentucky a new face," Courier-Journal, July 20, 1999.