Looking ahead to the 2020 Census as the Charlotte-area Hispanic population rises

Mecklenburg and its surrounding counties have seen a surge in Hispanic residents since 2010, recently released Census data show.

According to the 2018 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the nine-county area has added around 66,500 Hispanic residents so far this decade, an increase of 33%. Mecklenburg County alone now has an estimated 148,300 Hispanic residents, around 14% of the population.

The increase of Mecklenburg’s Hispanic population far outpaced its increase of non-Hispanic whites (9%) and non-Hispanic blacks (23 percent).

Statewide since 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 25% in North Carolina and 26% in South Carolina.

The increase is a continuation of a trend toward diversification in North Carolina, especially the Charlotte metropolitan area, that started in the 1990s. Mecklenburg is one of 21 counties in the state with a majority-minority population.

Owen J. Furuseth, retired associate provost for Metropolitan Studies and Extended Academic Programs at UNC-Charlotte, said the rapid growth of the Hispanic population in the area isn’t just because of migration, but also an increase in native births.

“As more people moved into Charlotte, the social and cultural fabric of the Latino community here grew, and it became known as a place with jobs, that was welcoming,” he said. “So it’s come from a dense web of demographic conditions.”

South Carolina’s York and Lancaster counties saw the highest Hispanic population growth rates in the area at 57%, which Furuseth said could potentially be because of the suburbanization of the Charlotte Latino community.

Furuseth said the strength of the Latino community in Charlotte is in part because of its status as a major-emerging immigrant gateway city. There are six cities in the U.S. that have this designation because of their high foreign-born population shares that are growing faster than the national average. In 2014, these cities comprised 8% of the total foreign-born population

Bob Coats, the Governor’s Census Bureau liaison, also noted that Charlotte is not only growing in number of citizens, but also in residents who come to the country temporarily to work without plans to become naturalized. These residents count the same as U.S. citizens in Census data.

However, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 United States Census, Coats fears that people will be afraid to participate and cause the data to be inaccurate.

The 2020 Census will come at a critical time in the city’s expansion, Coats said, because Charlotte will rely heavily on Census data in creating urban development plans for the next decade and beyond.

Mecklenburg County’s population increased 19% from 2010-18, topping out at 1.09 million.

“It is a kind of compliment to the city that so many people are moving to Charlotte, but with that comes the challenge of meeting the needs of a booming population,” he said.