Minority populations increase in the suburbsby Toni Randolph, Minnesota Public Radio
The latest census estimates show that the suburbs surrounding the Twin Cities are becoming more diverse. The trend may reshape suburban life from the schools to the voting booths.
St. Paul, Minn. — The 2000 Census found eight out of 10 minority residents in the Twin Cities metropolitan area lived in either Hennepin or Ramsey county. Fast forward to 2007 when census estimates say that ratio has dropped to seven out of 10. The other three were in outlying areas.
Barbara Ronningen, a demographer with the State Demographic Center, says the number of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians in the cities is still increasing, but just not as quickly as in the suburbs.
"As they become more established, get better jobs, have more income, they'll move further out from the central cities. Often that's homeownership, just like everyone else, they want to move to the suburbs," said Ronningen.
Ronningen says the growth in the number of minorities living in the suburbs may be due to other reasons, as well: She says more people are moving to the Twin Cities from other countries.
And, she says, minority populations, in general, are younger and have a higher birth rate than the white population, and it's likely that the latest findings reflect minority families with children moving to the suburbs.
"We're certainly seeing big increases in minority populations in the schools. Children come to school and their parents are at home, so we know it's probably family, probably not single people; it's not elderly people; it's families with children," explained Ronningen.
The changing face of the suburbs could have major implications in a number of areas, according to Paul Mattessich, head of the Wilder Foundation's research arm.
"The increases in those suburban areas, if much of it is reflected by an increase of people who are foreign-born, it's going to mean different languages are being spoken in those areas; it's going to mean, probably different needs for different kinds of services in those areas. I'd look at the implication of schools in terms of English as a second language, foreign language learners, the implications two and three and five years out of this increase," said Mattessich.
And Ela Rausch, also with Wilder Research, says more diverse suburbs could have an impact on voting patterns.
"Populations of color, particularly blacks and Hispanics, do tend to lean a little bit more Democratic than mainstream, non-Hispanic white population in the suburbs. Those areas typically go red, so a couple years down the line, you might see those areas maybe looking a little bit more purple or blue," said Rausch.
Researchers say there could be other changes down the road. They say there could be a growth in minority-owned businesses as a critical mass of people who have different cultural preferences reshapes the retail sector in suburban neighborhoods. They say some suburbs could begin to look more like Lake Street in Minneapolis than Main Street U.S.A.
- Morning Edition, 08/07/2008, 7:51 a.m.