Census data will touch many – what will the numbers show?

Census data will touch many – what will the numbers show?
By Jason Sandford, STAFF WRITER

ASHEVILLE – If the words “Census Bureau” put you to sleep, pause and consider the influence the bureau’s population counts from the 2000 Census will have.

Businesses, demographers, sociologists, politicians, voters and governmental bodies will use the data to decide everything from where the next McDonald’s goes up to how $185 billion in federal grant money will be handed out.

The Census Bureau has been releasing its first major batch of data from its 2000 count: population, race and Hispanic ethnicity available for each county, township, neighborhood — even your block. North Carolina’s numbers are expected to come at the end of the month. This summer, the Census Bureau will release more detailed information.

For Western North Carolina residents, the 2000 Census will offer the most detailed portrait yet of local communities and their populations. And although the new numbers aren’t scheduled to be released until the final week of this month, two trends are already evident:

* WNC’s Hispanic population is growing quickly, mirroring a nationwide trend. In the region’s 17 counties, the number of Hispanics grew 147 percent, from 3,885 to 9,590 people, according to Census Bureau estimates. The 2000 Census shows that nationally, the number of Americans who described themselves as Hispanic grew by nearly 60 percent and now total 35.3 million.

* Older residents continue to stream into the region. North Carolina ranks 10th in the country in terms of the number of people age 65 and older and the percentage growth of that population – 18.5 percent – Census Bureau estimates show.

North Carolina has been one of the nation’s fastest growing states, with about a 21 percent population increase. According to the Census Bureau, that growth qualifies the state for a 13th member of the U.S. House, although Utah has challenged that decision. For WNC, the growth will mean a change in district lines for the 11th Congressional District, as well as new state House and Senate district boundaries.

For 2000 Census watchers, the impending release of North Carolina’s numbers will have an immediate impact.

“I think it’s going to be a wake-up call to the Latino community,” said local activist Edna Campos. The new numbers are “going to make a big difference” in terms of the Latino community realizing its strength in numbers and becoming more politically active, she said.

But the detailed look is also good for everybody, Campos said.

“When I get to know the Ukranian or African-American or Asian community, then the stereotypes are broken down and I begin to have more trust in those people. It makes us a more cohesive community.”

Indeed, when it comes to examining the racial make-up of communities, the 2000 Census will provide the most accurate picture ever. For the first time, the census data will show how many Americans consider themselves multiracial. Americans were allowed to check more than one of six categories, resulting in a total of 63 combinations.

The new numbers “will show that people are not sticking to their own so-called ‘race,’ that the intermarriage rates are going up, that people are feeling more free to shed the “one drop of blood” rule,” said James A. Landrith Jr., editor of Multiracial.com and The Multiracial Activist.

As a White Alexandria, Va., man married to a Black woman, Landrith said he hoped the new data “will help us get past this obsession with race this country has.”

Gannett News Service writer Carl Weiser contributed to this report.

Contact Sandford at 232-5928 or n JSandfor@CITIZEN-TIMES.com

Copyright 2001 Citizen Times

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