With immigration policy hitting the news again, the nation is focused on ethnic groups and their potential to affect social norms. In Oklahoma one ethnic group is showing especially strong growth. It’s Asians, not Hispanics — although the population of the latter continues to grow faster than the non-Hispanic white population.
U.S. Census Bureau figures released last week show that Oklahoma’s Asian population grew by nearly 4 percent from 2011 to 2012. Asians were the fastest-growing race or ethnic group in the country, but Oklahoma’s growth rate for Asians outpaced the national average of 2.9 percent. The Hispanic growth rate in Oklahoma was 3.3 percent.
Relatively rapid growth rates might mask the fact that the number of Asians living in Oklahoma isn’t all that high at under 75,000. Tulsa County alone has nearly as many Hispanics as the whole state does Asians.
Growth rates are a key indicator for future population totals and the majority-minority mix. The non-Hispanic white growth rate in Oklahoma, as well as the black growth rate, are much lower than the Asian and Hispanic growth rates.
What might disturb xenophobes more than these growth rates is that there are now three counties in Oklahoma — Adair, Cherokee and Texas — in which the combined minority population is more than the majority population. This is the direction that much of the nation is going, but Oklahoma’s population remains predominately non-Hispanic white, at nearly 67 percent of the total.
Two ethnic groups celebrated for their industry, work ethic and family values are the fastest-growing populations in Oklahoma. Among Hispanics, the urban counties aren’t the locales with the fastest rates of growth. This distinction goes instead to certain rural counties, including some in western Oklahoma that have been losing people for years.
As more in the majority encounter fellow Oklahomans of Asian and Hispanic ethnicity, perhaps resistance to pragmatic immigration reform will begin to soften. We hope so.