Driven by the state’s African American and Latino populations, communities of color constitute an important and growing segment of the Kentucky electorate. The impact of these communities is felt not only through population growth but also through their economic contributions and increasing electoral clout. As the 2014 midterm election approaches, here are several facts to keep in mind regarding these growing and dynamic communities in Kentucky:
- The population of people of color in Kentucky, while numerically modest, is growing in significance. As of 2013, black Kentuckians made up 8.2 percent of the state’s population. Latinos made up approximately 3.3 percent, while Asians represented 1.3 percent of the population. Non-Hispanic whites made up approximately 85.6 percent of Kentucky’s population. From 2000 to 2011, the immigrant population in Kentucky grew from 2 percent to a little more than 3 percent, with close to 36 percent of the state’s immigrants eligible to vote. Furthermore, approximately 84 percent of children of immigrants are U.S. citizens.
- People of color represent an increasing share of the Kentucky electorate. From 2010 to 2012, blacks and Latinos saw their share of overall eligible voters grow from 7.2 percent to 7.4 percent and from 1.1 percent to 1.3 percent, respectively. The Asian share of eligible voters stayed the same at 0.5 percent, while the non-Hispanic white share of eligible voters decreased from 90.2 percent to 89.7 percent over the same two-year span.
- A significant share of people of color in Kentucky are below age 18. According to the Census Bureau, 39 percent of Kentucky’s Latino population is under age 18, while the same age group makes up only 20 percent of the state’s non-Hispanic white population. Among Kentucky’s African Americans and Asian Americans, 26 percent and 27.8 percent, respectively, are below age 18.
- Communities of color in Kentucky are integral to the state’s economy. As of 2011, 4.2 percent of the state’s workers were immigrants. Without the contributions of undocumented immigrants in Kentucky, the state’s economic activity would be reduced by an estimated $1.7 billion. Latino and Asian residents command close to $5.1 billion in combined buying power, while blacks command approximately $8 billion. According to the Census Bureau, black-owned businesses represent 3.1 percent of Kentucky businesses, 1.6 percent of the state’s businesses are Asian owned, and 1.1 percent of its businesses are Latino owned.
- Raising the minimum wage and health care are key issues for Kentucky voters. According to recent polling, 56 percent of eligible Kentucky voters favor a minimum-wage increase to $10.10 per hour, compared with the 35 percent who oppose an increase. Voters in Kentucky overwhelmingly believe that the current minimum wage is not sufficient to support workers’ families. Increasing the minimum wage is particularly important to people of color, who are more likely to be employed in a minimum-wage job. Kentuckians of color are also more likely to be eligible for Medicaid. Following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, the percentage of Kentuckians without insurance dropped from 20.4 percent to 11.9 percent.
Jamal Hagler is the Special Assistant for Progress 2050.