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Hispanics Increasing Importance in North Dakota’s Economy
Data from the 2017 1-Year American Community Survey shows Hispanics having a higher percentage of individuals in the labor force than non-Hispanics, 84% to 71%. Hispanic is considered an ethnicity rather than a race. Although most Hispanics in the state are considered to be Caucasians, they can be members of any of the major race groups. The 84% labor force participation rate of Hispanics exceeds the rate of any race in this year’s data. For example, Caucasians had a labor force participation of 71% and Blacks came in only slightly below the rate of Hispanics in the state.

Hispanics have been a small but rapidly growing segment of the state’s population. In Census 2000, there were less than 8,000 Hispanics in the state. By Census 2010 the number had nearly doubled to just under 13,500. Since 2010, their estimated number has grown rapidly, more than doubling to 29,500 in 2018, a growth of 119%. For comparison, this makes the size of the state’s Hispanic population larger than the city of Williston.
While American Indians remain the state’s largest minority, there are now about 70 Hispanics in the state for every 100 American Indians and their numbers are growing.
The largest concentration of Hispanics is now in Cass County, followed by Ward and Grand Forks counties. Eleven of the state’s 53 counties have seen a growth of Hispanics that more than tripled since 2010. Western counties, plus Cass and Grand Forks, tend to have seen the largest growth in this group. Percentage wise, McKenzie County had the largest growth at more than 750% from 139 in 2010 to just under 1,200 in 2018. Numerically, the largest growth occurred in Ward County, which grew from just under 1,900 Hispanics to 4,259 by 2018.

The most striking difference between Hispanics in North Dakota and those found nationally is their age. In the 2018 population estimate, Hispanics' median age in North Dakota was 23.8 years of age compared to 29.5 nationally, making North Dakota-based Hispanics much younger. The estimate indicates there are probably less than 600 Hispanics in the state older than 65, yet there are an estimated 4,200 under age five.

Source: Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-Year 2012 and 2017 Table B03001
The 2018 population estimate of Hispanic children under age five (4,234) in the state is greater than that of Non-Hispanic American Indian Children (3,845).
Why the Growth?
Economics appear to be the driver for the rapid change in the Hispanic count in the state. North Dakota’s need for additional workers appears to have enticed the changes in this group’s numbers. Hispanics appear to have been quick to fill the needs created in the Bakken region and elsewhere as the state’s economy created demands and wages increased.
The Census Bureau reports occupations by race and ethnicity in five broad categories covering a multitude of skills like “service occupations,” which included everything from healthcare to food preparation to buildings and grounds cleaning and maintenance.

Comparing five-year data tables in the American Community Survey for the time-frames ending in 2012 to 2017 shows an increase in resident Hispanic workers of nearly 120% compared to 23% for Hispanics nationwide. Most notable in the state is the growth in the sector covering natural resources and construction and maintenance, which grew from just under 700 to just under 2,300, or an estimated 181%  for both sexes and 189%  for males.
In fact, of the five broad occupation categories listed by the Census Bureau in the tables, only the category of sales and office occupations did not grow in excess of 100% in the state.

For comparison of the growth the state has seen in Hispanics in the workforce, the overall change in the state’s growth in resident workers is estimated to have been 6,300 (10%) using ACS data when comparing the two five-year time frames cited previously. White-non-Hispanic employment grew by 19,000 (6%) during the same time frame.

Hispanics of workforce age (ages 16-64) in North Dakota were far more likely to be found in the labor force than their national counterparts. For the five years ending in 2017, an estimated 86% of males and 71% of females of Hispanic origin were in the labor force compared to 80% of male Hispanics and 65% of female Hispanics found nationally. These differences match closely with what is found when comparing the non-Hispanic population nationally with that in the state.

Sources Census Bureau Population Estimate Program File PEPASR6H 2018, ACS table S2301 2010 through 2017, tables C23002H C23002I, C24010H and C24010I 5-Year tables ending in 2012 and 2017.
Hispanics May Replace American Indians as the State’s Largest Minority

Data in the Census Bureau Local Employment Dynamics (LED) program shows that since the year 2000 there have been more Hispanics working in North Dakota than American Indians, although this does not mean these individuals are residents of the state. Between the years 2000 and 2018, the state on average gained about 262 American Indian workers and 722 Hispanic workers per year. There is some double counting in these figures as individuals can be both Hispanic and American Indian. This particular program does not allow sorting workers by race and ethnicity but only one or the other at a time. (In the population estimate for North Dakota, just over 10% of Hispanics, an ethnicity, are also considered to be American Indians, a race.)

As individuals take jobs in the state, there is a greater probability they become residents either immediately or later after a period of commuting. The growth in Hispanic employment is matched by the growth in the estimated annual population.
Each year between 2000 and 2018, the total Hispanic population grew by an average of just over 1,200. Since 2010, that growth appears to have accelerated as the state grew rapidly.

The growth of the state’s Hispanic population is most evident in the growth in the number of children under age five. This population appears to have doubled in size from 1,985 in 2010 to an estimated 4,234 in 2018. The number of American Indian children under age five remained larger in 2018 at 4,772. However, when American Indian children of Hispanic ethnicity are excluded this figure drops to 3,845.

Extrapolating the observed changes forward into the future would suggest that at some point in the future, the state’s Hispanic population could grow larger than the state’s American Indian population.

Sources: Census Bureau Population Estimate Program file PEPASR6H, 2018 and Local Employment Dynamics QWI Indicators 1999-2018.
Most Hispanics in the State are U.S. Citizens

Individuals in North Dakota of Hispanic descent generally do not immigrate directly from outside the country. They appear to be second- and third-generation Americans likely having moved from elsewhere in the United States. Others are already U.S. citizens, such as those individuals migrating from Puerto Rico. ACS data indicates 84% of these individuals were born in the U.S. and about 7% are naturalized U.S. citizens, with the remaining 9% not U.S. citizens. Hispanics in North Dakota are far more likely to be U.S. citizens than Hispanics nationwide, 91% to 78%. When data for Hispanics under age 18 is reviewed, it shows that 97% are native-born citizens. Of the 3% born outside the country, two-thirds have become naturalized citizens.
Source: Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-Year 2017 Table B05003I

Hispanics in North Dakota Originate from Where?

Data from the American Community File show that Hispanics have originated from a wide variety of places. Of the estimated 24,700 Hispanics in the state for the five years ending in 2017, the largest percentage, an estimated 70%, were of Mexican descent. Another 7% were of Puerto Rican descent. The remainder were from a wide variety of locations like Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Cuba, Peru, Nicaraguan, Panama and Honduras, as well as other locations in Central and South America.

It appears Hispanics as a group are becoming more diverse just as the state has the past few years. In the five-year data ending in 2012, 75% of Hispanics were of Mexican origin. Five years later that percentage was down to 70%. Puerto Ricans in particular appear to have made the largest percentage gain over this time frame in the state. In Morton and Cavalier counties, Hispanics of Puerto Rican descent are estimated to outnumber those of Mexican descent.

Source: Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-Year 2012 and 2017 Table B03001

Latino Households are at Risk of Being Undercounted

Latinos have been undercounted for decades, disadvantaging their families, communities and neighborhoods. Latino children in particular are among the most undercounted populations in the United States. Today, there are 56.5 million Hispanics living in the United States, and roughly one in three live in hard-to-count census tracts.

It is especially important to make sure that the 2020 Census fairly and accurately captures the growing Latino community, as Latinos are already the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority group, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. population. From 2014 to 2015, the Latino population increased by 2% and represented almost half of the nation’s total population growth. 

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