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New Report Highlights Hispanic Population's Role In Idaho's Growth

Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs

A new data report from the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs finds the Hispanic and Latino/Latina populations in Idaho continue to be drivers for growth in the state.

This is the nonpartisan state agency’s fifth edition of the data profile on Idaho’s Hispanic population; the last one was released in 2016. It uses multiple state and national data sources, including U.S. Census Bureau data, to describe trends on the economy, health, education, housing, voting and crime.

Some data points highlighted in the report find Idaho’s Hispanic population makes up:


  • 13% of the state’s population
  • 12.5% of the state’s labor force
  • 7% of the state’s registered voters
  • 26% of the state’s population without health insurance 

Additionally, more than 70% of Idaho’s Hispanic population was born in the United States, 81% are U.S. citizens and 85% are of Mexican descent.


The median age for Hispanic people in Idaho is 25, much younger than the median age of White residents, which is 39.  


“That means Hispanics are very important drivers of population growth,” said Priscilla Salant, the lead study author. In fact, several Idaho counties would’ve lost residents if not for Hispanic resident growth. Salant said that also extends to growth in K-12 school districts.  


Still, even though Hispanic residents continue to contribute to Idaho’s population growth — and economic growth — the overall rate of population growth among Hispanics in Idaho peaked in the 1990s and has declined since. 


Salant said the recent data shows the economic picture for Hispanic families is looking up.     


“Unemployment rates are way down, poverty rates are way down and median household income, that measure of how much income families have to live on, is up,” she said. 


Those trends were present when the last report was released in 2016, but are more evident now, years out from the 2008 recession. 


Salant attributes this to growth in industries in which Hispanic people in Idaho tend to work, including food processing and agriculture; a younger population, and therefore more people of working age, and slowly increasing educational attainment from generation to generation.  


One area where the state could improve, Salant said, is education. Eighteen percent of Idaho’s K-12 students, but only 3% of public school educators, are Hispanic or Latino/Latina.


“We need more bilingual, bicultural teachers and other school district employees,” Salant said. 


To her, that reveals a gap Idaho’s higher education institutions should be working to fill by training more bilingual teachers. 


Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen  


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