Originally created 05/07/00

Minority population makes gains on whites



In Richmond County and beyond, the numbers of minorities -- especially Hispanics -- are growing and gaining on the white majority.

From 1990 to 1997, the county experienced a 73.1 percent jump in its Hispanic population, to 6,417 residents, according to the 1999 Georgia County Guide.

The black population rose by 11.2 percent, to 88,587 residents. All other minorities rose by 9.6 percent, to 5,993 residents.

During the same period, the county's white population fell by 5.8 percent, to 98,518.

The growth in the minority population, particularly among Hispanics, mirrors national trends that aren't likely to slow, said Doug Bachtel, a demographer at the University of Georgia.

"That group is growing phenomenally," he said. "The increases are very high."

U.S. Census Bureau projections predict the white population will be only half the national population by 2050, down from 75 percent in 1996.

The nation's strong economy is luring Hispanics, especially from Mexico, to the United States in search of jobs, Dr. Bachtel said.

In Augusta, growth in the Hispanic population likely is tied to Fort Gordon and to job opportunities in the service sector, Dr. Bachtel said.

"Georgia's military counties are the most culturally diverse of any of our counties," he said.

As the Hispanic community grows quickly over the long term, growth in the area's black population likely will level off, partly because of gains being made by blacks in education and income, Dr. Bachtel said.

Current growth in Georgia's black community is fueled by higher birth rates, but it is aided by a general explosion in the state's population, he said.

The state's booming economy has led some blacks to return to Georgia after leaving in the 1960s and 1970s in search of work elsewhere, he said.

Georgia's boom period also has brought blacks who have no previous local ties.

"They're coming to Georgia for a job, just like everybody else," Dr. Bachtel said.

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.