Author: Michael Cline, North Carolina State Demographer
“We are a safe space where young people and families can be accepted and celebrated for who they are. It’s a safe space to be bilingual, bicultural, and to be yourself.”
That is ISLA Executive Director Lwiza Escobar Garcia describing the role her organization plays in the community.
It’s a role that’s grown in the 10 years since ISLA was founded. Once a Saturday morning program for fewer than 20 children, today the organization engages approximately 200 students and their families. They continue to provide a free Saturday Spanish immersion program for children ages 3-17, but now have programs for parents, online Spanish classes, and language and cultural immersion summer camps.
It stands to reason that ISLA would have grown in the last 10 years. The organization serves one of the fastest-growing segments of North Carolina’s population. The Hispanic population was one of three major racial/ethnic groups that saw childhood populations expand from 2010 to 2020. The other two were the Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander and Non-Hispanic Other groups.
While demographic data shows remarkable growth in the Hispanic population in North Carolina, it would be a mistake to view this demographic as a monolith. As our earlier article explains, more than half of the North Carolinians who identify as Hispanic were born in the U.S. The ethnic origins of the Hispanic population have also evolved over the last few decades and become more diverse.
Maintaining cultural connections among a diverse, young population that is overwhelmingly native-born, is part of what drives organizations to highlight Hispanic culture.
“It can be an uphill challenge for parents to share their heritage,” explains ISLA’s Garcia. “They might not have a lot of extended family nearby. Activities in their community and their children’s school are in English. One of the goals of our organization is to help families stem the intergenerational loss of language and culture while at the same time empowering them.”
One of the organization’s programs, ISLA Los Sabados serves youth ages 3-17, helping them connect with their heritage, the larger community, and the natural environment. They also offer ISLA Padres to help Latino parents have a voice accessing resources for navigating the education system and working towards an equitable society.
The Hispanic population is younger overall – with a median age of 25 in 2021. Compare this to 44 for the Non-Hispanic White population, 37 for the Black population, 36 for the Asian population, and 35 for the American Indian population. The relative youth of the Hispanic population suggests continued growth even with declining fertility rates and lower levels of immigration.
Current population projections predict that by 2050 24% (759,000) of North Carolinian children (age 0 to 19) will be Hispanic, up from 18% today. For the entire state population, 14% of North Carolinians (or 2 million people) will be Hispanic by 2050 (from 11% today).
While we project all counties will experience Hispanic population growth, the proportion of the population that is Hispanic will vary by county. By 2050, 56% of the childhood population (age 0 to 19) in Johnston County is expected to be Hispanic and 39% of the county total population. At the lower end of the range, by 2050 Perquimans County’s population is projected to be 1% Hispanic for both the entire county population and among the childhood population (age 0 to 19).
Every county has some Hispanic population as of 2022 and all counties are projected to see growth in this population by 2050. See our prior article “Hispanic Population is Dispersed Across State” for more details.
Compare the population by age in 2022 to our projected population for 2050 to see changing race/ethnic characteristics of North Carolina’s population by age.
How to Access the Hispanic by Age Population Projections
You can access a summary showing the size and age characteristics of the Hispanic population for past or future years (2010 through 2050) for North Carolina or one or more North Carolina Counties. You can also go directly to Demography.osbm.nc.gov to access estimates and projections of the total Hispanic population by race and sex for the state and. Search for the “Hispanic Origin by Age” dataset. Data users can explore these data by selecting specific counties or other characteristics. Download selected data or the full dataset from the data platform as well. These data can also be downloaded directly as a comma delimited text file at: County/State Population Projections. Go to the last dataset titled: Hispanic Origin/Race by Sex and Age (2010-2050).
The Non-Hispanic Other mostly includes people who self-identify as multi-racial and do not identify as ethnically Hispanic.
Hispanic or Latino/a/x are pan-ethnic terms to describe people of Spanish or Latin American origin or descent. We use the term Hispanic in most cases when describing our data about this population as it is the term most used by the US Census Bureau. See the Pew Research Center for more information about the use of these pan-ethnic terms.