Oklahoma’s future growth lies in its immigration population, several experts say. Hispanic residents, such as Miguel Ramirez, now make up almost 9 percent of the state’s population and that growth rate is expected to climb. (M. Scott Carter)
By M. Scott Carter
The Journal Record
Posted: 10:10 PM Wednesday, June 15, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – Immigrants are in Oklahoma to stay – whether you like it or not.
Despite claims by state lawmakers and others that Oklahoma’s undocumented immigrant population is a drain on state resources and the economy, demographic experts and economists say the state’s hope for growth rests with its immigrants.
“The parts of the country growing fast are the parts of the country that have high levels of immigration and high levels of population growth,” said Harvard University professor Edward Schumacher-Matos. “The parts of the country growing slow have almost no immigration; Cleveland, Pittsburgh, they are dead and they have almost no immigration.”
Census data confirms Schumacher-Matos’ claim.
In Oklahoma, the largest growth segment was the Hispanic population, said Steve Murdock, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The largest single increase this decade was due to Hispanic population,” Murdock said. “It’s dynamic to the whole population.”
Because the birth rate among Anglo-Saxons has declined steeply, Murdock said, the white population will find itself in the minority over the next decade.
“The white population is, right now, at replacement-level fertility,” Murdock said. “And if you wanted more white immigrants you would have to go to Europe. But right now, Europe has the slowest population growth in the world.”
The countries with the highest birthrates are in Central America.
Yet while some see an increase in the state’s immigrant population as a negative, the state’s growth – and future economic strength – will depend on immigrants.
“Years ago we had the first great wave of immigration,” Schumacher-Matos said. “But we didn’t have the effects we have today because back then everyone was a high school dropout.”
As education levels have increased, he said, the negative effects of immigration have been concentrated on about 5 percent of the population.
“What that meant years ago was the impact was spread out,” he said. “There was no big hit on any one sector. Now, this time, it’s concentrated to the bottom 10 percent of the population.”
Both Murdock and Schumacher-Matos agreed that the end result for Oklahoma – and the rest of the country – was long-term population and economic growth.
“If you are not diverse in America, then you are not growing,” Murdock said. “Diversity and growth go together now. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should look at the long-term data.”
M. Scott Carter,
Capitol Bureau Reporter
The Journal Record
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