The Muscatine County town of West Liberty is the first in the state in decades to have a majority of its population be made up of a minority group. University of Iowa researcher, Jeff Schott, says the southeast Iowa city is part of a cultural change happening in Iowa.
He says the 2010 Census shows that more than half — or 52% of the town — is made up of Hispanic or Latino residents. “It’s the first time in quite sometime that we’ve seen a community in Iowa with more than 50% of the population a minority group,” Schott says. Schott says the last time a town had minorities make up the majority of its residents was a half century ago in the coal mining town of Buxton.
West Liberty’s Latino population grew by 10% between 2000 and 2010, which was much faster than the rest of the state. Overall the state Hispanic population increased from 2.8% in 2000, to 5% in 2010. Schott says West Liberty is one of several small towns that have seen the Hispanic population grow.
He says there are 120 cities in 2010 with latino populations of 5-percent or more, compared to 54 in 2000. Several other towns are close to joining West Liberty as “minority majority” towns — including Columbus Junction with 48% Latino population, Denison at 42%, Storm Lake at 36-percent and Perry at 35-percent. Schott says the latino population has grown faster in small towns, as nearly half of the 50 cities with a 10% Latino population have a total population of less than 1,000.
Schott says the Census numbers verify the predicted trends for minority growth. Schott says it’s not unique to Iowa as the minority population in general is growing all across the country, the Hispanic population in particular. He says this growth has been forecast for some time and the Census has confirmed the forecast.
Schott said the state’s African American population also grew, but at a much slower rate than the Latino population, going from 2.1% to 2.9%from 2000 to 2010. He says the African American population growth was also confined to fewer locations and focused primarily in the larger cities.
Schott says only three cities have a black population of 10% or more and all three –Waterloo, Des Moines and Davenport — have overall populations of 50,000.