New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show Iowa could see a big increase in its Latino population over the next two decades. Iowa Department of Latino Affairs director Armando Villareal says the Latino population is expected to increase steadily.
There were approximately 85,000 Latinos in the 2000 Census, and the mid-decade adjustment put that at approximately 115,000 and now some predictions say by 2030 that number will go to 330,000.
Villarreal says while some point out negative consequences of immigration, Latinos have had a positive impact on Iowa. "(Immigrants) have re-energized the small downtown communities across Iowa," he says, "and you see it, I mean just here in Des Moines…there all sorts of businesses that have flourished."
Villareal says Iowa has historically drawn Latinos to the state for low-paying jobs as migrant workers, but higher education must be a priority to help Latinos break out of the low-wage cycle. Acording to Villareal, the state will miss out if it doesn’t create opportunities for the youngsters to enrich their education and become high-wage earners, as he says they will eventually be paying the bills.
Villarreal says Latinos currently make up just over three percent of the state’s labor force — mostly in low-paying jobs with few benefits.