Latino Majority Town Is Sign Of Midwest's Growing Diversity
IOWA CITY - For the first time in decades Iowa has a minority majority town, and a University of Iowa researcher said it shows how profoundly the cultural face of Iowa and the Midwest is changing.
According to 2010 U.S. census data, the Muscatine County town of West Liberty has a Latino population of 52 percent. Of the town’s 3,736 residents, 1,951 identified themselves as Latino.
Jeff Schott, director of the University of Iowa’s Institute of Public Affairs, said that makes it the first town in Iowa with a population majority made up of minorities, possibly the first since the heyday of the Black majority coal mining town of Buxton a century ago. He said that in 2000, West Liberty’s Latino population was 42 percent.
“The overall population of racial minorities in Iowa increased moderately between 2000 and 2010, but the impact on individual cities is much more dramatic,” said Schott, who analyzed census data for the Iowa League of Cities.
He said Iowa’s Latino population grew from 2.8 percent to 5 percent. However, the census shows 50 Iowa cities now have a Latino population of 10 percent or more of their overall population, compared to only 22 cities in 2000. Census data from other Midwestern states shows similar trends.
Schott said that growth also happened in cities of all sizes and in different parts of Iowa, especially in small towns. Of those 50 cities with a 10 percent Latino population, 24 have populations of less than 1,000.
Schott said the impact of larger Latino populations is significant for policy makers and local governments. Many of the Latinos are immigrants who work in lower wage jobs and are also in need of additional government services. School districts also need to adapt to educate large numbers of students who speak little or no English.
Several other Iowa communities are close to joining West Liberty as minority majority towns, including Columbus Junction at 48 percent Latino and Denison at 42 percent. Storm Lake is 36 percent Latino and Perry is 35 percent.
Schott said the state’s Black/African American population also grew, but at a much more moderate rate than the Latino population, from 2.1 percent to 2.9 percent. African American population growth was also confined to fewer locations, and focused primarily in the larger cities.
In 2010, 22 cities had African American populations of 5 percent or more, compared to seven cities in 2000. Schott noted that only three cities have a black population of 10 percent or more, and all are larger than 50,000 population—Waterloo, Des Moines and Davenport.