The Bay Area’s Latino population has grown slower in past 7 years.
Also nationally, Latino’s low growth due to declining immigration and U.S. birth rates.
Despite this shift, the region is home to one of the largest Latino populations in the country, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
The U.S. Latino population grew annually on average by 2.8 percent between 2007 and 2014, the report showed.
That’s down from a 4.4 percent growth rate between 2000 and 2007 and down from 5.8 percent in the 1990s.
It’s a significant shift for Latinos, once known as the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group. Experts say decreased legal and illegal immigration from Latin America, falling Latino fertility rates and growing migration patterns from Asia have contributed to this slowed growth.
“Every indication shows that it’ll continue to slow, particularly because immigration hasn’t returned to the levels it was at prior to the Great Recession,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research for Pew.
Migration to the United States from Mexico slowed down in the 2000s before coming to a halt in 2009, the result of a recovering economy, more jobs and a decreasing birth rate. Many people no longer felt the need to leave Mexico; in fact, many left the U.S. to return, reversing immigration patterns that had been in place for decades.
At the same time, migration from Asia has increased, and Asians now form the fastest-growing group in the U.S., according to Pew.
Though Latino growth rates slowed across all of California, their presence shouldn’t be overlooked, according to Gregorio Mora-Torres, a lecturer at San Jose State’s Department of Mexican American Studies.
“We’re talking about a Latino population that is thriving, a Latino population that is establishing itself in the local economy,” he said. “That’s what people aren’t noticing. California Latinos are becoming much more important.”
Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties all saw double-digit increases in their Latino populations, though at a slower rate than in years past.
For example, Santa Clara County was home to an estimated 503,000 Latinos in 2014, a 25 percent increase from its Latino population in 2000. It saw a 28 percent growth rate in its Latino population in 2000.
In Contra Costa County, the Latino population grew by 67 percent, totaling an estimated 280,000 people. That’s compared with an 84 percent growth rate in 2000.
A metropolitan region including the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward was home to an estimated 1 million Latinos in 2014. Meanwhile, a region including the cities of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and San Jose was home to about 500,000 Latinos in the same year, according to Pew.
Mora-Torres said a plethora of well-paying jobs and institutes of higher education are what attract many Latinos to the region.
“That’s the reason why they stick around,” he said, “there are opportunities.”