Census 2010: State population up nearly 5%; diversity grows
Asians were the fastest-growing racial group in Connecticut over the past decade, according to 2010 U.S. Census data released Wednesday, while whites dropped by 0.3 percent.
Overall, the state's population increased 168,532, from 3.41 million to 3.57 million, a minimal number in "the land of steady habits."
Fairfield County has the largest population with 916,829, growing by 3.9 percent since 2000. New Haven had a 4.7 percent rise to 862,477, and New London had the greatest increase of 5.8 percent, with a population of 274,055.
Bridgeport retained its position as Connecticut's largest city, and the 4,700 people who moved into it during the past 10 years were enough to reverse a 60-year-old trend and give the Park City its first population gain in the decennial count since the 1950s.
Oxford retained the title of the fastest-growing community in the state with a 29.1 percent increase. Stamford grew by 4.7 percent to 122,643 residents.
The census figures mean the state will not lose a congressional district.
"Our population is stable over the past 10 years," said Jeff Dunn, of the state Data Center at the University of Connecticut. "Counties in the western half of the state saw more growth, but no county went down."
But population shifts within towns will mean that boundaries for state and local election districts will need to be redrawn.
That work has already started in some towns, where redistricting committees have been appointed.
An eight-person legislative committee of Democratic and Republican leadership over the next few months will begin crafting three redistricting plans -- one for the state House of Representatives, one for the Senate and a proposal for the congressional districts.
The 2010 census shows Connecticut with increased racial diversity, something that had been widely expected. Whites still make up more than three-fourths of the state's population, but the number of residents who identify themselves as Hispanic also grew sharply, by nearly 50 percent.
Another interesting jump was among state residents who consider themselves biracial or multiracial. That category jumped 23.8 percent from 10 years ago, but still makes up only a tiny percentage of state residents.
State officials said they were not surprised by the demographics revealed in the census. The number of students studying English as a second language has been increasing for the past several years, school officials said.
One in seven public school students in Connecticut predominately uses a language other than English, said Thomas Murphy, of the state Department of Education. About 133 different languages are spoken in the state's 162 public school districts, he said, though Spanish is by far the largest.
"This is a huge issue and has enormous impact on the achievement gap in Connecticut," Murphy said.
More than half of the non-native speakers of English are in elementary school, and 75 percent of them are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, an indicator of low-family income.
The four-year high school graduation rate for these students was slightly more than half, 53.4 percent, in 2009, according to education department data.
Nearly 4,200 of the non-native speakers have been identified as needing special education services.
Many of the newest immigrants to the state, like those in the much-larger wave that arrived here from Europe in the early 20th century, say they came for opportunity.
"I came here because of my husband's job, but I like America because it is the best of both worlds," said Aurora Moral, a native of the Philippines who was getting remedial help in English from the Literacy Center of Milford recently. "If you have a job you can have a nice life."
Milford has significant Turkish and Indian communities, and while nearly all of the students in her remedial English class 10 years ago were from India, "now they are from all over," teacher Gail Hass said.
Taliye and Ali Korkmaz, a Turkish couple came to this country to help Ali Korkmaz's brother with his pizza restaurant, and they plan to stay.
"There are more trees here and many people live in single houses," Taliye said. "In my country everyone lives in big apartment buildings with 10 floors. The schools have 50 or 60 children in each class. It is better here."