- Sonoma County racial census breakdown (PDF - 278kb)
Latinos now a quarter of Sonoma County's population
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 7:16 a.m.
A quarter of Sonoma County's 483,878 residents are Latino, a burgeoning group that grew by 40,912 people in the past 10 years, according to data from the 2010 Census released Tuesday.
The following are highlights from the 2010 Census data for California released Tuesday.
Sonoma County, which had the highest percentage growth of the 9-county Bay Area during the 1990s, showed only the fourth greatest percentage growth in the latest census, behind Contra Costa, Napa and Santa Clara counties.
Lake County, with a population of 64,665, had a 10.9 percent increase in population from 2000 to 2010, ranked 21 in growth of the state's 58 counties. In contrast, Mendocino County had only 1.8 percent growth, reflecting 87,841 people, and ranked near the bottom of the state's counties in growth, 52 of 58.
The populations of both Sebastopol and Rohnert Park decreased during the past decade, Sebastopol by 5 percent and Rohnert Park by 3 percent. The growth of other Sonoma County cities: Cloverdale, 26 percent; Windsor, 17.8 percent; Sonoma, 16.7 percent; Santa Rosa, 13.7 percent; Cotati, 12.3 percent; Petaluma, 6.2 percent; Healdsburg, 5 percent.
The extensive growth of the Latino population, evident during the past three decades in Sonoma County, is now also evident in Lake and Mendocino counties.
-- Lake County's population of 36,366 in 1980 was 5.2 percent Latino. By 2010, the population had grown to 64,665, and the percentage of Latino residents had tripled to 17.1 percent of the population — 11,088 Latino residents.
-- Mendocino County's total population of 66,738 in 1980 was 5.5 percent Latino. By 2010 the total population had grown to 87,841, and the percentage of Latino residents had quadrupled to 22.2 percent of the population — from 3,688 to 19,505.
Fewer births compared to deaths in the region's non-Latino white population, as well as a net migration out of the county, have contributed to an overall drop in the white population.
-- Sonoma County recorded 341,686 white residents in 2000. That number dropped to 320,027 by 2010.
-- Mendocino County recorded 64,581 white residents in 2000. That dropped to 60,249 by 2010.
-- Lake County had 46,933 white residents in 2000. The county showed only a slight gain in the white population to 47,938 by 2010.
There was no significant change in the North Coast's Asian and Native American populations. Native Americans comprised 2.1 percent of Lake County's population in 2000 and 1.8 percent in 2010. In Mendocino County, Native Americans remained at 4 percent of the population through the decade.
Asians were 1.1 percent of Lake County's population in 2000 and 1.2 percent in 2010. In Mendocino County, the Asian population increased from 1.4 percent to 1.7 percent, an increase of 274 residents.
Sonoma County saw an increase of 3,769 Asian residents, from 15,442 people in 2000 to 19,211 ten years later.
Sonoma County's African American population grew by 653 people, from 6,116 residents in 2000 to 6,769 last year.
The 52 percent growth of the Latino population — 79,511 to 120,430 — was in stark contrast to the county's white population, which dropped 6.3 percent from 341,686 people in 2000 to 320,027 residents in 2010.
Those drops helped fuel overall population decreases in Rohnert Park and Sebastopol, and only modest population gains in all but Cloverdale, which grew by 26 percent.
The county's overall population grew by 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2010, much smaller growth than the county's 18.1 percent growth during the 1990s.
“We are becoming more ethnically diverse, specifically in terms of (Latinos), which means our demography for consumer demand and our pool of labor is evolving along those lines,” said Robert Eyler, director of Sonoma State University's Center for Regional Economic Analysis.
The data from the 2010 decennial census count is the latest to be released by the federal government, which is rolling out information state by state.
The growth in Sonoma County's Latino population outpaced the ethnic group's statewide growth of 27.8 percent from 2000 to 2010. Also, the state's white population actually grew by 6.4 percent, compared to an almost equal percentage decline in Sonoma County.
There were 37,253,956 people living in California in April, 2010, when the census count was conducted, with more than half the children in the state now Latino.
The results confirm what locals already know; the Latino population, driven largely by its younger population, is an integral part of Sonoma County and will continue to be.
“It's visible. You see it on the streets, you see it in the stores,” said Salvador Perez, 30, who left Mexico for Santa Rosa with his family in 2001.
A clue to what's behind the current population trends in Sonoma County is found in annual population estimates from both the California Department of Finance and the census bureau.
During the 1990s, the Latino population ballooned by 93 percent, while the white population grew by 44 percent. But in the past decade, the number of
A yearly average of 2,756 white babies were born, but an average of 3,476 white residents died every year in the first eight years of the decade, according to state finance department estimates. Also, every year, an average of 1,455 white people left the county.
In contrast, an average of only 193 Latinos died every year during the 2000s, while 2,326 babies on average were born to Latinos during the decade. An average of 2,328 Latinos also entered the county every year.
The figures released Tuesday will be used by state and local governments to begin redrawing boundaries for congressional, state legislative and county supervisorial districts.
Redistricting data for the whole of California was released late last year, when it was determined that the state's population did not grow enough to warrant another congressional seat. During the 1990s, the state's population grew by 4.1 million people, a demographic shift that earned California one more seat in Congress. The state has 53 congressional seats.
Growth in the Bay Area was dwarfed by that of the Central Valley.
Contra Costa was the fastest growing Bay Area county, growing by 10.6 percent but ranking only 22nd in the state.
San Mateo County was the slowest growing in the Bay Area, with a 1.6 percent increase. Riverside County's population increased by 41.7 percent, making it the state's fastest-growing county.
Eyler of SSU said housing was the single most dynamic factor in the state's demographic shift of the past 10 years. More affordable housing, at least during the first half of the decade, drove people from the coast to the Central Valley, to places like Stockton, Sacramento and Modesto.
The Sacramento region grew by 353,000 people from 2000 to 2010 and now has 2.15 million residents. That's a growth of 20 percent, compared to 9.8 percent for Napa County and 5.9 percent for Santa Clara County.
“The job growth started to migrate to where the workers were,” he said.
The inland migration probably ended around 2006, with the peak and subsequent decline in housing prices, he said. After the housing bust, many who moved in the first part of the decade likely stayed put even through the Central Valley's painful housing contraction.
“People are not that ridiculously mobile at the end of the day,” Eyler said.
Ten years ago, when Sonoma County's Latino population hit 17.3 percent, Latinos held few positions of power and almost no elected seats in local government.
Back then, Efren Carrillo was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. Now, Carrillo, who was raised in Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood, is chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. He was elected to the 5th District seat in 2008 and represents west Santa Rosa and west county.
That same year, Police Lt. Ernesto Olivares was elected to the Santa Rosa City Council. He is now mayor, Santa Rosa's first Latino mayor.
Other elected or appointment Latinos include Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Dueñas, who was promoted from Lieutenant last November by Sheriff Steve Freitas; Tiffany Renee, Petaluma city councilwoman, whose mother's family is of Mexican descent; and Jose Obregon, head of Sonoma County General Services Department.
Carrillo said the census numbers released Tuesday were striking but not surprising.
“The new census figures are essentially proving what we were expecting a decade ago,” he said. “Young Latinos will continue to represent a larger proportion of our population.”
Carrillo said that Latinos have become important members of the local community and economy, “establishing businesses, they're buying homes and serving as community leaders.”
But he warned that Latinos continue to face a number of challenges, such as poverty, low educational attainment and “unacceptable high drop-out rates.”
“These increased pressures will place increased demands on the local safety-net system,” he said, adding that improving educational attainment among local Latinos is key to addressing the socioeconomic challenges challenges they face.
On the street, opinions were mixed among Latino residents on whether the population trend would help or hurt them.
Perez, who hails from the Mexican state of Hidalgo, said it could result in more businesses catering to fellow Spanish-speaking immigrants or more governmental support and recognition of the Latino community.
“It could help,” he said while waiting for a haircut with his 2-year-old, American-born son Alexander at Bella's Beauty Salon in Santa Rosa.
But Jessica Garcia Leos, 24, a Healdsburg native and Santa Rosa resident whose maternal grandparents legally immigrated to the United States from Mexico more than 45 years ago, said her family members were concerned about economic fallout from the trend.
Garcia said she's heard her grandfather complain “there's so many people coming from Mexico and there's no jobs."
"It doesn't really help,” she said.
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