PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s Hispanic or Latino population grew by nearly 40 percent over the past decade, according to data released by the US Census Bureau on Thursday.
The number of Rhode Islanders identifying as Hispanic or Latino rose from 130,655 people to 182,101 people between 2010 and 2020, and that group now represents 16.6 percent of the state population, up from 12.4 percent.
Rhode Island has the 12th highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino residents among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
New Mexico had the highest percentage, with 47.7 percent of its population being Hispanic or Latino, while West Virginia had the lowest percentage at 1.9 percent. Nationally, Hispanic or Latino residents now account for 18.7 percent of the US population.
“The numbers seem to reinforce the trends that we have seen in the last two decades with significant growth in the state’s Hispanic population,” said John M. Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “While we don’t yet have a clear picture of where the growth is concentrated in the state, in all likelihood those drawing new districts will have the ability to create even more majority-Latino districts.”
This year’s General Assembly was the most diverse in Rhode Island history, with 21 people of color in the 113-member legislature.
And the new census data is bound to help bolster the representation of the Latino community in the legislature, said Natalie Almeida, spokesperson for the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.
“We are here, we matter, and we make up a big part of Rhode Island,” Almeida said. “The Latino Policy Institute is excited to have access to this data to better understand the needs of our community. It definitely reflects the growth in the Latino community that we’ve seen in Rhode Island in the past decade and how much the Latino community impacts the state.”
The highest concentration of Hispanic or Latino residents is in Providence County, where that group represents 24.3 percent of the population. By comparison, Hispanic or Latino residents account for 6.5 percent of Newport County, 5.7 percent of Kent County, 3.8 percent of Bristol County, and 3.5 percent of Washington County.
The new census figures show that Cranston has officially overtaken Warwick to become the second most populous city in Rhode Island.
Census estimates had given the edge to Cranston in recent years, but now the new census figures show that Cranston has 111 more people than neighboring Warwick. Over the past decade, Cranston’s population grew from 80,387 to 82,934, while Warwick’s population inched up from 82,672 to 82,823.
Cranston Mayor Kenneth J. Hopkins said he now has bragging rights over his friend, Warwick Mayor Frank J. Picozzi.
Hopkins said Picozzi tells him that the prisoners shouldn’t count. (Cranston is home to the state prison buildings known as the Adult Correctional Institutions). He said he tells Picozzi to “stop counting the passengers that get off the plane.” (Warwick is home to Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport).
“Our growth is over 2,500 residents over the last 10 years,” Hopkins said. “People like our schools, shopping centers, and public safety.”
He said he won’t ask Picozzi to surrender the 20000 license plate that traditionally goes to the mayor of the state’s second-most populous city.
“We help each other all the time. Great guy,” Hopkins said of Picozzi. Plus, he joked, “He is much shorter than me. I don’t want him to feel bullied.”
Picozzi responded in a tweet on Friday, saying, “Ken’s a good friend. I won’t feel bullied because he’s pretty old and not in the best of shape. All I’ll say about the second largest population thing is that Cranston can count the prisoners towards their total. I don’t have to lock my residents in to keep them here.”
He added, “All in good fun. Two great cities in a great state.”
Ken’s a good friend. I won’t feel bullied because he’s pretty old and not in the best of shape 😆🤣. All I’ll say about the second largest population thing is that Cranston can count the prisoners towards their total. I don’t have to lock my residents in to keep them here.— Frank Picozzi (@PicozziForMayor) August 13, 2021
Marion joked that Cranston will get the “silver medal of Rhode Island census politics.”
“I don’t think there is anything but bragging rights on the line for being Rhode Island’s second largest city,” he said. “But no one is overtaking Providence any time soon.”
Providence remains far and away the state’s most populous city, with 190,134 residents. That’s up 7.2 percent from 178,042 in 2010.
The new census data also show that Rhode Island has one the least youthful populations in the nation, with the fifth highest percentage of residents aged 18 or older.
With 80.9 percent of its population 18 or older, Rhode Island is even less youthful that Florida, which ranks seventh at 80.5 percent. The District of Columbia has the highest percentage, with 83.4 percent of residents 18 or older.
The number of Rhode Islanders aged 18 or older increased by 7.1 percent over the past decade, according to the US Census Bureau.
Marion said that reflects the trend of the population in the South and the West growing at a faster rate than in the Northeast. “Rhode Island and all of the New England states are getting grayer because fewer people moving here and fewer people are having families here,” he said.
The census data comes one day after state legislative leaders picked the members of Rhode Island’s redistricting commission. The 18-member special commission on reapportionment will draft new General Assembly and congressional districts, using the latest census figures to make recommendations to the full Assembly by Jan. 15.
The membership of the commission drew criticism from the Black Lives Matter RI PAC, which called for House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio to reconsider the appointments and include “progressive elected officials that reflect the best interest of the communities they serve.”
And on Thursday, state Senator Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat, issued a statement, saying the decision “to not include the only Black woman in the Senate nor any of the three openly queer members of chambers reflects a lack of commitment to honoring the increased diversity of the chamber in the last election cycle.”
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.