DAVENPORT - Iowa's Hispanic population continues to increase at a much higher rate than the state's overall population, according to government data released Thursday.
The U.S. Census Bureau data shows more than 162,800 Latinos lived in the state in July 2012, the Quad-City Times reported. That's a 3.2 percent increase from the year before, and 10 times the estimated increase for the state's overall population for the year.
Latinos still only make up about 5 percent of the overall population, and the rate of growth between mid-2011 and mid-2012 was slower than what was average over the past decade.
But more counties are gaining noticeable Hispanic populations, the newspaper reported. Hispanics make up 10 percent of the population in 10 counties, a jump from seven counties in 2008. And 25 of the state's 99 counties have Hispanic populations of at least 5 percent, up from 15 counties five years ago.
"My best guess is as these communities grow in size, they become more attractive" to other Latinos, said Liesl Eathington, an assistant scientist at Iowa State University who tracks demographic trends in the state.
Eathington noted that some of the change is due to a decline in the overall population. So a stable Latino population will grow its share if the rest of the non-Hispanic population is shrinking.
The Asian population in Iowa increased by 4.8 percent to more than 60,000 between mid-2011 and mid-2012, making it the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in Iowa. Iowa's African-American population grew by 2.3 percent to more than 97,000.
More people in Iowa and Illinois are claiming more than one race on their census form, according to the newspaper. That option became available in 2000.