OLYMPIA — Washington’s Latino population grew by more than 70 percent in the past decade, and only two of the state’s 39 counties saw their population drop, while most of the state experienced growth, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday.
The Census figures put a number on what people here have already noticed: Washington is growing, and it did so quite fast in the 10 years. Overall, Washington’s population jumped by 14 percent, gaining the state a 10th seat in Congress.
“Washington state remains a highly desirable place to live, offering a stronger economy, safe communities and an unmatched quality of life,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement. “I’m not surprised by Washington state’s population growth, and welcome the added diversity.”
Gregoire added that she welcomes the added representation in Congress and the increase of federal money to support programs such as Medicaid and education.
One of the uses of the data released by the Census Bureau will be to inform the five-member citizen commission that is responsible for redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative district maps.
“We’re anxious to get started, but our first task as a commission is to incorporate the new population data into our redistricting database and our plan-drawing tools,” Laura Powell, chairwoman of the Redistrict Commission, said in a statement. “At the earliest opportunity, we want interested groups and individuals to be able to access this wealth of information.
The Census figures show that King County at 1.9 million people and Seattle at around 600,000 residents remain the largest county and metropolitan area in the state. Clark, Thurston, Whatcom and Benton counties saw their populations spike by more than 20 percent.
Topping the list of county population growth was Franklin County in Eastern Washington, which saw its population jump by 58 percent, from about 50,000 to nearly 80,000.
Pacific and Garfield counties were the only counties to see a population drop.
Among the top metropolitan areas, Vancouver’s population grew by nearly 13 percent, Bellevue increased by about 12 percent and Seattle saw a jump of 8 percent. Tacoma’s growth was the lowest among major cites at 2.5 percent.
Yi Zhao, the state’s chief demographer, said that net migration to the state has declined, compared with the 1990s.
“Far fewer Californians were seeking homes in other Western states during the last decade,” Zhao said.
The data also shows a massive growth in the state’s Latino community, spiking by 71.2 percent to about 755,000 people, or about 11 percent of the state’s 6.7 million residents. Asians are the second largest minority now at 7 percent, followed by African-Americans at about 3.5 percent. The white population is now at 72 percent of the state’s residents.
“We’ve seen the growth,” said Uriel Iñiguez, executive director of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs. “Our state has been successful because we have accepted people from all ethnic backgrounds.”
Franklin County now has a majority of Latinos, the figures show.
People who chose “some other race” in their Census questionnaire were 5 percent of the state’s population.
Census spokesman Robert Bernstein says that category is chosen by respondents who don’t feel any of the boxes in the Census accurately describes their race.
The population distribution between Eastern and Western Washington remains unchanged, the Office of Financial Management said, with the split remaining steady at 78 percent in the west and 28 percent in the east.