Last week nearly 1,000 protesters marched from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, to recreate the historic Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights movement march of 1965. The protest march drew together representatives from the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and Latino rights groups, who used the occasion to highlight modern forms of discrimination—protesting attempts to restrict voting in the state and voicing their opposition to Alabama’s restrictive immigration law, H.B. 56.
This sign of unity between Latino and African American activists reflects the changing demographics of the state of Alabama. From 2000 to 2010 Alabama had the third-fastest-growing Hispanic population in the country and was one of nine states where the Hispanic population more than doubled over the preceding decade.
In advance of Alabama’s primary tomorrow, here are facts about how Alabama’s emerging communities of color are changing Alabama’s economy and electorate.
1. Communities of color are driving Alabama’s population growth. Alabama had strong population growth of 7.5 percent from 2000 to 2010. The Hispanic population increased by 145 percent from 2000 to 2010, which accounted for 27.7 percent of the state’s total growth from 2000 to 2009.
2. Children of color now make up more than 40 percent of Alabama’s children. In 2008 children of color were 38.6 percent of all children in the state. By 2010 children of color made up 40.7 percent of Alabama’s children. In 2010, 30.7 percent of the child population was African American and 1.1 percent was Asian. 5.9 percent of Alabama’s children were Hispanic and 2.8 percent of the child population was of mixed race.
3. Communities of color are younger and represent the future of the state. In 2010 the median age of non-Hispanic whites was 41.2. In comparison, Hispanics’ median age was 24.8, while the median age of African Americans was 32.2, and 32.1 for Asians.
4. In 2008 African Americans voted heavily for then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) over Arizona Sen. John McCain (R). In November 2008, 547,000 African Americans voted in Alabama, making up more than a quarter of the state’s total votes. Although Sen. Obama lost the state to Sen. McCain by more than 21 percent, African American voters in Alabama heavily supported Sen. Obama at the polls. Exit polls suggested that 98 percent of African American voters cast their ballots for Sen. Obama, while only 2 percent voted for Sen. McCain.
5. The increase in Alabama’s communities of color will soon translate into political power. In the 2010 election 403,000 African Americans, 14,000 Hispanics, and 4,000 Asians voted in Alabama. Between 2000 and 2010 the Hispanic population in Alabama grew by 109,772 and the Asian population increased by 22,249. Only 22.1 percent of Hispanic citizens in Alabama voted in 2010, just more than half of the voting rate of non-Hispanic white citizens. The pressure to turn numbers into political power will rise along with the number of eligible voters of color in the state.
6. Alabama passed H.B. 56, the harshest anti-immigrant law in the land, in June 2011. The legislation threw the state into chaos as Latinos fled for more welcoming communities, students were too scared to go to school, and farmers worried about having enough people to pick their crops. According to one estimate from the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research, H.B. 56 could cost the state $10.8 billion and up to 140,000 jobs. All to drive out an undocumented population that is estimated to comprise only 2.5 percent of the state.
7. The courts continue to strike down provisions of the clearly unconstitutional H.B. 56. On March 8 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked two additional sections of the law—one which barred unauthorized immigrants from entering into a contract with the state (even for something as basic as having water turned on in your home) and another that made it illegal to enter into a contract with an undocumented immigrant. The courts previously blocked other provisions including those that forced school officials to report on the immigration status of their students and made it a crime to give an unauthorized immigrant a ride.
8. Individuals in communities of color face significant economic hurdles. The median household income for African Americans in the state in 2010 was less than 60 percent of the household income for non-Hispanic whites. The median household income for Hispanic residents in Alabama that year was 70.1 percent of non-Hispanic white income.
9. Unemployment hits these communities harder than non-Hispanic whites. In 2010, 18.9 percent of the African American civilian labor force over the age of 16 in Alabama was unemployed. This more than doubled the 9.3 percent unemployment rate of the comparable white population. Hispanic unemployment in 2010 was also high, at 11.6 percent in the same year.
10. Nevertheless, communities of color contribute significantly to the state’s economy. In 2010 unauthorized immigrants paid $130 million in state and local taxes. The almost 4,500 Latino-owned businesses made more than $1 billion in sales in 2007, the last year for which data are available. The almost 7,000 Asian-owned businesses generated more than $2.6 billion in sales that same year.
Vanessa Cárdenas is the Director for Progress 2050 and Angela Maria Kelley is Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress.