For Latinos, a Demographic Leap

La Herradura

For Latinos, a Demographic Leap

The fastest-growing groups in Knox County’s Census numbers are fueling local diversity.

by jesse fox mayshark • August 19, 2021

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La Herradura

La Herradura restaurant on North broadway started as a mexican food truck. It is a small sign of the growth of the local latino community.

Knox County added a total of 46,745 new residents between the 2010 and 2020 Census — and nearly 1 out 3 were Hispanic or Latino.

The white-only population fell to 79 percent in the county, and to 68 percent in the City of Knoxville.

Although the Hispanic/Latino population still accounts for just 6 percent of the total county population, that is nearly double the 3.5 percent it made up in 2010. It grew from 15,012 residents to 28,568 over the past decade, a 90 percent increase.

And it is not just in percentages that Latinos led county growth, according to data from the 2020 Census released last week. In absolute numbers, the rise of 13,556 was a bigger increase than the 11,210 rise in the local “white alone” population, from 362,580 to 373,790. 

For every new non-Hispanic white resident over the past decade, Knox County added 1.2 Hispanic/Latino residents. Latinos accounted for 29 percent of the county’s total population growth.

Claudia Caballero, executive director of Centro Hispano, a nonprofit that serves Knox County’s Latino communities, said the numbers bear out what she has seen.

“We’ve been talking about this growth for years,” she said. The impacts are visible across the county, from the blossoming of tiendas and Latino restaurants to classrooms where about 11 percent of students are Latino or Hispanic.

Caballero said among other things, it means local governmental and other institutions need to work to make sure they are accessible and have workforces that reflect the community.

“It’s just about looking like the population we serve,” she said. She said she was encouraged that many local organizations are looking to hire people with multilingual skills, although filling those positions can be difficult.

“I definitely see a bigger push to hire multilingual folks. Can they find multilingual folks locally? That’s the challenge,” Caballero said.

Multiracial Growth

The county’s largest percentage increase in any racial or ethnic category came among people identifying as “two or more races.” The category, which was introduced in the Census only in 2000, grew from 7,132 people in 2010 to 21,724 last year — a rise of 204 percent. Meanwhile the population identifying as Black alone grew just 5 percent, from 37,648 to 39,853.

That pattern has been seen across the country, as a growing percentage of people who might have previously been classified as Black or white alone claim mixed heritage. If you combine the categories, in Knox County the share of the population identifying as Black or “two or more races” rose from 10 to 13 percent.

Knox County’s Asian population also grew significantly, rising from 7,998 in 2010 to 11,881 in 2020 — a 49 percent increase. Meanwhile, the white-alone population grew by just 3 percent.

The result is that the overall non-Hispanic white share of the county population dropped from 85.6 percent in 2010 to 79.2 percent in 2020.

In the City

The City of Knoxville grew to 190,740 in the 2020 Census, making up 40 percent of the total county population. It is home to about three-quarters of the county’s African-American population, and a little more than half of its Hispanic or Latino population. 

The city actually lost population in two categories: people identifying as white only or Black only. The white-only population slipped from 132,641 to 130,036, and Black-only from 30,257 to 30,123. But the Hispanic or Latino population nearly doubled, from 8,206 to 15,160, now making up 8 percent of city residents.

Meanwhile, the “two or more races” category grew from 3,886 to 9,616. The city’s Asian population also grew, from 2,875 to 4,323.

Overall, the white-only population of Knoxville fell from 74 percent to 68 percent. 

Data from individual Census tracts helps illuminate some trends from the last decade. In Census Tract 1, which encompasses most of downtown Knoxville, growth was fueled by an influx of white residents. Of 1,302 new downtowners, 1,013 were white.

Still, other categories grew by larger percentages, dropping the overall white population of the tract to 81 percent from 85 percent. Black residents of the tract rose from 126 to 226, multiracial from 25 to 104, Latino from 27 to 100 and Asian from 37 to 62.

One caveat to that tract is that it includes the downtown county jail, which can hold up to 215 inmates. Prisoners are counted as residents of wherever they are incarcerated on the Census day. Last April, when the 2020 Census was conducted, the county reported a jail population of 177. 

In the Parkridge neighborhood of East Knoxville, where there has been a lot of talk and concern about the possibility of racial displacement as new investment comes in, the Census shows only a modest effect so far.

The neighborhood, north of Magnolia Avenue between Hall of Fame Drive and Cherry Street, remains majority nonwhite in the 2020 Census. The largest racial group is Black-only, at 45 percent, followed by white-only at 43 percent, and another 6 percent is multiracial. The Hispanic or Latino population is just under 5 percent.

That is a slightly larger white population than in 2010, when white-only residents made up 40 percent. And the Black population of the tract declined by more than 100 people, from 1,463 to 1,318, while the white population added 65 people to grow to 1,261.

Meanwhile, across the Tennessee River in Vestal, growth is making the area more nonwhite. The white-only population in the historic industrial neighborhood lost 130 people and declined from 83 percent to 71 percent, even as the tract grew from a population of 3,644 in 2010 to 4,088 in 2020.

The Black and multiracial population of Vestal grew from a combined 12 percent to 21 percent, and 7 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino, up from 4 percent in 2010.

One of the areas that has seen the largest increase in its Latino population is the Lonsdale neighborhood. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of Hispanic or Latino residents more than doubled from 572 to 1,321, now making up 24 percent of the tract.

The Black and multiracial populations of Lonsdale remained at 41 percent of total residents, and the white-only population fell by 500 people from 2,276 to 1,776, declining from 48 percent of the population to 33 percent.