11:21 PM PDT on Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

The Inland area had the biggest growth in Latino population of any metropolitan area in the U.S. in the 2000s and had one of the biggest losses of white, non-Hispanic residents, a new report found.

The study, released Saturday by the Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C., also concluded that the region had one of the least-educated work forces in the nation, at a time when an increasing number of jobs require a college degree. The report compared the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2008. Most data were from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual survey of 3 million households. The Inland area includes all of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The report found that the region had the 10th highest percentage of non-whites — more than 60 percent — in the country; offering a glimpse at the demographic future of a country in which whites are projected to become a minority by 2042.

From 2000 to 2008, the Inland area gained more than 635,000 Latino residents and lost more than 72,000 white inhabitants, the study found. The area also had the third highest proportional increase — 59 percent — in Asians.

The recession has slowed growth, but over the long term the Inland area’s non-white majority will continue to expand, predicted Hans Johnson, associate director of the nonpartisan San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California and co-author of “The Inland Empire in 2015,” a 2008 demographic study.

In the past, many whites moved to the Inland area from coastal Southern California and out of state, he said. Migration from other states has slowed, and many of the newcomers from coastal counties are Latino, reflecting increasing Hispanic populations there, Johnson said. Immigration, higher birth rates among Latinos and higher death rates among whites also will contribute to the continuing demographic shift, he said.

That will change more than population. The growing number of Latinos will likely weaken the Inland area’s stature as a Republican stronghold, Johnson said.

The shift is creating a “cultural generation gap,” said Alan Berube, research director of Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, which conducted the study.

The Inland area has the second highest disparity between the racial and ethnic background of young and old people. Two-thirds of seniors are white but 73 percent of children are non-white.

Only Phoenix has a bigger gap. Berube said that disparity may lead to tension and could be one reason white voters in Arizona support the state’s tough new anti-illegal-immigration law.

Janice Phillips, 71, said she is “extremely frustrated” by the number of illegal immigrants and non-English-speakers in Perris, which has gone from 36 percent Hispanic in 1990 to 70 percent today.

“We don’t have a lot of work here in Perris and a lot of work here is held by Hispanics who are not American, illegal immigrants,” she said.

Phillips gets annoyed that many employees at a large Latino supermarket near her house speak only Spanish.

“I can’t ask for an item in English,” she said. “The only ones who speak English are the clerks at the cash register.”

María de Los Angeles, 49, and her extended family illustrate why many Latinos call the Inland area home. Her sister and U.S.-born brother-in-law moved from Orange County to Moreno Valley because of lower housing prices, which has long been a key draw for Inland newcomers of all backgrounds.

De Los Angeles moved with her husband and two children from Mexico to Moreno Valley in 2006 because her sister was already there. She likes the city because it’s quieter than Los Angeles and she believes it is safer and has better schools.

Asians still comprise a lower percentage of the Inland area’s population than the state’s — 6 percent versus 12 percent — but the pace of Inland growth is much faster.

Rasmey Sam, executive director of the Asian-American Resource Center in San Bernardino, said that in the past some Asians did not leave Los Angeles or Orange counties because they did not want to feel isolated.

“Now there are (Asian) supermarkets here, there are Asian restaurants,” Sam said. “A lot of them now say, ‘Fine, I can live here now as part of a group and have everything that is in a big city.'” The growing number of Asian and Latino families has helped give the region the nation’s third-largest average household size — 3.29 — and the fifth-highest percentage among households of married couples with children, the report found.

Those numbers also reflect the Inland area’s unusual status as a metropolitan area that doesn’t really have a core urban city, said David Swanson, a professor of sociology at UC Riverside and an expert on demography.

“It’s a bedroom community for a larger area,” Los Angeles, Swanson said.

Primarily suburban areas like the Inland region typically attract more families with children than central cities, he said.

Most of the data in the report was compiled during the boom years of the early and mid 2000s. The Inland area had the 10th highest growth in median household income between 2000 and 2008, the report found. That is in part because the relatively low wages in the Inland area gave it a lower base to start from, but it’s also because the rapid growth created jobs, Johnson said.

Yet the report also contained sobering data on the Inland area’s economic future. The region ranked behind 93 of the 100 metro areas in the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degrees or higher.

A disproportionate number of Inland jobs — in warehousing, trucking and agriculture — don’t require degrees. But studies show an increasing need for college-educated workers, and college graduates earn far more on average than those without degrees. The Inland area needs to work harder to attract professional jobs rather than simply promote itself as a low-cost alternative to coastal counties, said David Stewart, dean of the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management at UC Riverside.

“We need to change the way we think about economic development,” Stewart said. “We’ve really focused on cheap dirt, and we’ve not been very discriminating as a region in what we put on that dirt. It’s been, ‘Whatever comes through the door, we’ll take it.'”

Reach David Olson at 951-368-9462 or dolson@PE.com

inland portrait

A newly released report illustrates demographic shifts that are transforming the Inland area. The study looked at the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

To read entire story, click here.