R.I.'s Hispanic population grows by more than 24 percent in five years
August 18, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. --Rhode Island's Hispanic population increased by more than 24 percent in five years, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Data from the 2005 American Community Survey, which was released this week, shows there are 112,722 Hispanics living in Rhode Island households. That's an increase of 24.1 percent from 2000, when the number was 90,820. Unlike the full census conducted once every 10 years, the community survey only measures household populations.

Nationally, Hispanics made up more than half of 7.9 million new immigrants to the United States between 2000 and 2005. Researchers say they are also moving to states that haven't traditionally been immigration destinations, such as Rhode Island.

Rob Paral, research fellow with the American Immigration Law Foundation in Chicago, said the immigrants are filling a growing number of jobs that natives are not interested in, especially in the service sector and construction industry.

Leonard Lardaro, professor of economics at the University of Rhode Island, said tourism and hospitality make up a substantial part of Rhode Island's economy and most of the Hispanic immigrants take jobs as chambermaids, cooks and janitors. They also work in factory, agricultural and landscaping jobs, he said.

Rhode Island has also recently seen high growth in Hispanic-owned businesses, with an increase of 56 percent between 1997 and 2002, from 2,186 to 3,415.