While Iowa is a state that is over 90% white, an analysis of U.S. Census data by Iowa State University researchers says the state is becoming more diverse. Liesl Eathington, an economist with the I-S-U Regional Capacity Analysis Program (ReCAP), says the increasing diversity is happening slowly.
Eathington says there’s not radical change, but the rate of change in the minority population in this decade is a little bit more rapid that the 1990’s. Iowa’s total minority population grew by more than 32-percent between April 1, 2000 and July 1, 2007.
Persons of Hispanic origin now represent 4% of the state’s total population — up from 2.8 percent in 2000. Eathington says you can credit young people for the increase in minority population. "The highest diversity rates in the state are within the age zero to 20 group, and the next highest would be in the age 20 to 44 age group, so our new residents in minority groups do tend to be younger," Eathington says.
Eathington says only the state’s larger metro and suburban counties — including those around Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City — are seeing increases in younger populations among the non-minority groups. She says the increase in minority population seems to be touching many counties.
Eathington says there are concentrations in certain counties that would attract minorities to certain types of jobs, but she says one of the more interesting things in the study is that counties that have lost overall population, have still seen an increase in minority population.
In Wapello County, Humboldt County and Allamakee County, the minority population more than doubled. Buena Vista’s 26% minority population ranked highest among all counties. Eathington says the increase in minority population does give some indication of changes in Iowa’s economy. She says if you look at the economy over the last decade or two, the state has increased the number of low-wage jobs that tend to attract workers who are not "white collar" and highly educated.
But, Eathington says though, the new minorities in the state can’t all be pegged as low-wage and uneducated. Eathington says we’ve also got a lot of people with advanced degrees that fall into the minority groups that are earning on par or more with people in the non-Hispanic white group.
"We’ve kind of have a dichotomy in the state, when we talk about minorities, it’s important to not to just characterize them all as the low-wage workers," Eathington says, "we’ve got them across the board in terms of jobs, occupations, earning levels, education."
Among the Baby Boomers, Iowa had 776,627 residents between the ages of 45 and 64 in 2007, an increase of 26%. Nationally, the age group grew by 24% during the seven-year period. You can see the complete report titled "A Profile of Iowa’s Population by Age, Race, and Ethnicity in 2007" on-line at the ReCap website.