ENC Health Care Atlas


Hispanic/Latino Population Distributions for the Southern US and North Carolina: 1990 to 2000

The period between 1990 and 2000 saw a significant rise and a broadening geographical distribution of the Hispanic population for much of the United States. The southern states were no exception to this trend and Eastern North Carolina saw nearly a tripling of its Latino residents. Hispanic is a general term describing Spanish-speaking populations here in the US whose origins are in Central and South America, as well as Spain and the Caribbean. Latino is basically synonymous with Hispanic, but it is the preferred appellation in many US states, including North Carolina). This section uses maps to describe the trends for both the Southern US and North Carolina during this time period. The maps show percentages at the county level, in addition to showing growth between the two time periods. Hispanics or Latinos with origins in Mexico, Central, and South America are broken out from the general Hispanic population. Data for these maps are based on the 1990 and 2000 Census, Summary File 1.

Also included in this section is a map that describes the population distribution of migrant and seasonal farmworkers for North Carolina during the mid- to late 1990s. This map is included here because, for the most part, the greatest proportion of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in North Carolina are made up of Latinos who have origins in Mexico, Central and South America. The data for estimating this population were based on extant national databases and agricultural workforce models. The estimated enumeration is available from the Bureau of Primary Health Care, a federal agency. The denominator data, which are the county total populations, are from North Carolina’s Office of State Budget and Management.

It is very important to consider the impact of the Hispanic or Latino population on the counties of Eastern North Carolina. For many counties, this population is a significant component--in terms of both production and consumption--in local and agriculturally based economies. In turn, local public health resources and programs will need to be focused and tailored to the health needs of this growing and vital population.

Southern US Hispanics/Latinos: 1990 to 2000

These maps describe the geographic distribution of Hispanics in the southern US as a percentage of county population for the Census years 1990 and 2000. Texas counties are included to show the highest densities (Hispanic population ÷ total population) of Hispanics in relation to the counties of the South, where in many cases there were few or no resident Hispanics in 1990. The maps are divided into two groups. The first group includes all Hispanics regardless of national origin, while the second group considers only those Hispanics who have origins in Mexico, Central, and South America. (Most NC Latinos have origins in these regions.) These maps are based on resident Hispanics included in the national Censuses of 1990 and 2000. It is very likely that undercounting has occurred in a number of areas for certain points in time, and that the degree of undercounting will be dependent on local circumstances. This would be especially true for those areas that are dependent on a seasonal and migrant workforce for local agricultural production cycles.

The evolving geographical distribution of the Hispanic population in the South has its basis in the expansion and continuing integration of this population into the region’s primary (agricultural) and secondary (manufacturing) economic sectors. The 1990 maps for both population groups show Texas and Florida as major regional centers of Hispanic populations. Smaller, outlying county clusters of relatively higher densities can be found throughout the Southern US with the more notable of these secondary centers being found in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. The maps for the year 2000 show the Hispanic population expanding beyond the 1990 centers into their surrounding hinterlands. The exceptions to this observation are the counties of West Virginia and surrounding Appalachian counties and a band of more or less contiguous counties stretching from Alabama to eastern Louisiana. North Carolina’s Latino distribution expands in density and uniformity (based on the present classification scheme) with local centers of higher density populations emerging and stretching from the Coastal Plain to the western part of the state.

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Changes in the Percent of Population Who Are Hispanic/Latino North Carolina: 1990-2000

Most of North Carolina has witnessed an extraordinary growth in its Latino population during the years between 1990 and 2000. For this map, the classification scheme is slightly different than the previous Hispanic South map. The new classification is refined to discern change among the lower county population percentages. In 1990, the highest density (Latino population ÷ total population) county was Onslow. This county is home to a large military population of which Latinos are a significant part. The 2000 map shows a primarily westward shift and expansion of the Latino population into the interior Coast Plain counties (e.g., Duplin, Sampson, Johnston, Wilson, and Greene) and beyond into the Piedmont and the Western portion of the state. The highest density Latino populations coincide, for the most part, with counties with significant levels of agricultural production.

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North Carolina’s Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Populations: the 1990s

Migrant and seasonal farmworker populations (MSFWs), which consist primarily of Latinos, make up a significant though transient minority population in many eastern North Carolina counties. The data used to produce these maps are based on an estimation methodology that relies on extant national databases and surveys of migrant and seasonal farmworkers coupled with agricultural workforce demand models. Details of the methodology employed to produce the MSFW enumeration data are found in the publication Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Enumeration Profiles Study—North Carolina, which was prepared for the Bureau of Primary Health Care’s Migrant Health Program.

The MSFW population in this map set does not include those engaged in forestry and fishing. It should also be noted that MSFWs and resident Latinos are not necessarily mutually exclusive populations—there may be some degree of overlap. For example, some resident Latinos may work only seasonally or they may move from one county to the next during the course of the agricultural season. The MSFW estimated enumerations are not included in the denominator (i.e., the total, resident population) and so the resulting percentages are really ratios that permit comparisons among the counties.

Eastern North Carolina possesses the highest densities of estimated MSFWs for the state. Four out of the five highest-ranking counties are in this region, with Greene County’s MSFW reaching a value over 20%. A northern tier of counties, with relatively high MSFW values, extends from the east to the west. This pattern distinguishes the eastern region from the rest of the state and it also contrasts it to the distribution of this region’s resident Latinos, whose geographic distribution is less unique within the state.

In most cases the seasonal influx of relatively large non-resident populations into counties with relatively small resident populations can have a large impact on the local infrastructure in many ways. On the positive side, counties that are primarily agricultural are dependent on the MSFW population to keep this sector of their local economy viable. Part of the money earned by agricultural laborers is circulated back into the local economy with attendant multiplier effects and, therefore, its potential for taxation. On the negative side, a large portion of MSFWs is uninsured and can potentially place a heavy demand on the local community health infrastructure. This infrastructure may not, at the time, be very well developed or fully capable of handling a relatively large culturally and economically distinct mobile population.

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