SAN ANTONIO, May 24 (UPI) -- Census figures released Friday show that immigrants are making Texas and some of its neighboring states more international and Spanish is becoming a more common language in many households across the Southwest.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported what are called "social characteristics" from the 2000 Census, and they show that Texas is emerging from its rural past into an urban state with rising incomes and a growing international, bilingual population.
Nearly 14 percent of Texans said they were "foreign born," compared with 9 percent a decade ago, and 31.2 percent said they speak a language at home that is not English, up from 25 percent in 1990. Most listed Spanish as their preferred language at home.
Of the 2,899,000 Texans who listed themselves as "foreign born," 1,330,000, or 6.4 percent of the state's entire population of 20,651,000 said they entered the United States between 1990 and 2000.
"We are truly internationalizing our population," explained State Demographer Steve Murdock. "With the nearly 90 percent increase in the number of foreign born, that suggests that much as our economy is internationalizing, our population is internationalizing."
Similar Census 2000 information released Friday show an increasingly international population in Arizona, Louisiana and New Mexico.
Arizona's "foreign born" population has nearly doubled to 12.8 percent over the past decade. As in Texas, Spanish is the most dominant second language and the number of persons speaking another language has increased about 5 percent to nearly 26 percent.
In New Mexico, nearly 37 percent of the homes speak a language other than English and Spanish again is dominant with those families. The number of "foreign born" residents there has increased from 5.3 to 8.2 percent during the 10 years.
The international population of Louisiana has increased less than 1 percent to 2.6 percent. Households speaking a language other than English fell slightly to 9.2 percent and Spanish is not the preferred second language, apparently due to the French influence in Cajun country.
In Texas, other figures showed residents are enjoying rising incomes, especially in booming central Texas and in so-called "exurban" counties around major cities. Median household income rose from $35,200 in 1990 to just under $40,000 in 2000.
The percentage of Texans living below the poverty line fell from 14.1 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in the most recent census, but Murdock noted that all residents are not benefiting from the prosperity.
The lowest income area remains in the Rio Grande Valley along the Mexican border. The percentage of residents in Starr County living below the poverty line fell 9 percent, but still stands at 47.4 percent, making the county one of the poorest in the nation.
The percentage of Texans over the age of 25 without a high school diploma or GED dropped below one quarter for the first time ever to 24.3 percent, down from 27.9 percent a decade ago.