Latino population accounts for all of area’s net growth, study finds

Results released by Greater Milwaukee Foundation

The Latino population is responsible for all of the Milwaukee metro area’s net growth in both population and employment during the last 25 years, a study has found.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation released the results of a study examining the four-county Milwaukee metropolitan area’s Latino population Thursday morning.

The study, called “Latino Milwaukee: A Statistical Portrait” was commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and completed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development.

It takes a detailed look at the region’s Latino community and how it has changed over the past quarter century.

Among the findings, the metropolitan area’s Latino population increased by 213 percent to more than 160,000 between 1990 and 2014, accounting for more than 10 percent of the region’s total population.

“The findings in this report underscore the significant role the Latino community will play in the future of our region,” said Marcus White, vice president of civic engagement for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, in a prepared statement. “The data reveals disparities but also opportunities. Though it doesn’t explain why certain trends are occurring, the information provides us with important questions to explore together with our community partners.”

Here are some of the study’s most significant findings:

  • Of Latinos currently residing in Milwaukee, 73 percent are U.S.-born citizens, 20 percent are foreign-born non-citizens and 7 percent are naturalized foreign-born citizens.
  • Compared to population trends in the country’s 50 largest metro areas, Milwaukee’s Latino population growth ranks in the middle of the pack.
  • The Milwaukee area has one of the country’s widest cultural generation gaps: Though white non-Hispanic residents make up 86.7 percent of the area’s population older than 65, they account for less than half (49 percent) of the area’s population younger than 5 years old. Latinos, on the other hand, make up 15.4 percent of the population under 18 and 16 percent of the population younger than 5, suggesting Latino population growth in the area will outpace white non-Hispanic growth in the future.
  • The Milwaukee metro area’s Latino population is the country’s fourth most concentrated in urban communities. Around two-thirds of the metro area’s Latinos live in urban as opposed to suburban communities, which is far higher than the national average.
  • More than 27 percent of Milwaukee’s dense, urban Latino population lives in impoverished neighborhoods where 40 percent or more of the population is poor, which the study says is “highly correlated with residential segregation.”

“The rapid growth of Milwaukee’s Latino community over the past 25 years has profoundly reshaped the region’s neighborhoods, schools, and economy,” said the study’s lead author, Marc V. Levine, director of the UWM Center for Economic Development. “We hope the study will permit greater understanding, among Milwaukee policymakers and residents alike, on the nature of the remarkable demographic and economic transformation underway here, and inform discussion about the implications of these trends for the future of the city and the region.”

The full results of the study are available on the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s website.


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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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