Arlington's cost of living helping to squeeze Hispanics out

Preliminary census figures point to sizeable gains for minorities - particularly Hispanics - as states prepare to redraw political maps.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011; 10:25 PM

In marked contrast to the rest of Virginia, Arlington County's Hispanic population dropped by double-digits in the past decade even as the county's total population continued to grow, according to census numbers released Thursday.

As Hispanics moved out, more whites and Asians moved in. The number of non-Hispanic whites, which fell during the 1990s, increased by 16 percent. Whites now make up 64 percent of Arlington's 208,000 residents, compared with 60 percent in 2000.

The Asian population in Arlington also rose by 21 percent. But the pace of growth slowed compared to the 1990s, when it soared by 45 percent.

The non-Hispanic black population held steady at almost 18,000, as it has for the past two decades. The number of people who identifed themselves as more than one race fell from 16,000 to 12,000.

Arlington County Board member J. Walter Tejada said housing affordability has made it difficult for Hispanics to remain in Arlington.

"We're sort of victims of our own success," he said, adding that Arlington's highly ranked schools, low crime and good transportation options attract wealthier residents and drive rents up. All of those factors "would prompt people with low incomes to look for somewhere else."

The Hispanic population fell by 11 percent to 31,000. The drop-off is striking in that it follows a 53 percent increase in Hispanics moving into the county between 1990 and 2000.

Arlington schools data reflect the census's Hispanic and white percentage changes since 2000, with the percentage of Hispanics dropping. But they also show a drop in the percentage of black students and a slight decline in Asian students.

The differences may be attributable to the fact that since 2000, the school system has been including the category of multiple race, which now accounts for 4.8 percent of students.

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