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The face of the Tri-Cities is changing. New census survey tells how

Pasco remains Washington’s fastest-growing city, according to census figures released this month. The results of the 12016 American Community Survey confirm the Tri-Cities is growing in numbers and contain a few surprises as well. The release comes as the U.S. Census Bureau prepares for the 2020 census.
Pasco remains Washington’s fastest-growing city, according to census figures released this month. The results of the 12016 American Community Survey confirm the Tri-Cities is growing in numbers and contain a few surprises as well. The release comes as the U.S. Census Bureau prepares for the 2020 census. Tri-City Herald

Pasco is still the fastest growth city in the state.

A new batch of numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau adds fresh dimension to the demographic make up of the Tri-Cities.

The government released the 2016 American Community Survey results this month. The numbers, which hint at the formal census in 2020, confirm the Tri-Cities are growing — not just in population but in ethnic, educational and economic diversity.

The mini census confirms the obvious — Pasco’s growth continues at breakneck speed and Latinos represent a growing share of the population on both sides of the Columbia River.

It also offers unexpected glimpses at other forms of diversity.

Pasco recorded a small but statistically significant increase in its Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian population and a significant drop in the rate of births to unmarried women, falling from 78 births per 1,000 five years ago to 59.

And Kennewick had a noticeable increase in the share of widowed women.

The American Community Survey is an ongoing survey of 3.5 million households. Results are published annually. The 2016 survey came out this month.

The survey comes with a big caveat. The bureau releases data for communities with 65,000 or more people. The cutoff excluded Richland and West Richland. To compensate, the Herald is using data for the Richland School District, which includes both cities.

Combined, Richland and West Richland are the oldest in the Tri-Cities, the most female and most educated.

Pasco retains the title of Washington’s fastest growing large city, gaining nearly 8,000 people since 2012 for a total of 71,934. Its 12.3 percent growth rate narrowly edged out Bellevue (11.8 percent) and Seattle (11 percent).

Pasco retains the title of the state’s fastest growing large city (12.2%), gaining nearly 8,000 people since 2012. Bellevue grew 11.8 percent and Seattle 11 percent.

Richland and West Richland grew by a combined 9.6 percent, landing at 73,504.

Kennewick grew almost 6 percent and remains the Mid-Columbia’s largest city with nearly 80,500.

The Tri-City total population grew to almost 284,000. A jump of nearly 6 percent.

Men account for 50.3 percent of the population and women 49.7. Nearly 70 percent of all residents are of voting age and the median age is about 33 1/2.

Tri-Citians are just over 61 percent non-Hispanic white, 31 percent Latino, 2 percent Asian and 2 percent black or African American.

The median home value was $199,000.

The census data is particularly timely for Kennewick and Pasco, which are wrestling with diversity and growth.

Kennewick

Kennewick formed a diversity commission last year after a council member inflamed the Latino community with a Facebook meme many considered offensive. The commission is scheduled Oct. 10 to recommend ways the city can improve communications with its increasingly diverse community.

The commission was disappointed to receive just 750 responses to its well-publicized survey, a result members say highlights the disconnect between residents and local government.

“That is the charge,” said Commissioner Nichole Banegas. “Our charge is to figure out how to get people engaged.”

That is the charge. Our charge is to figure out how to get people engaged.

Nichole Banegas, Kennewick Diversity Commission

According to the census data, Kennewick isn’t just growing, its population is increasingly Latino and decreasingly white. Latinos comprised 29 percent of the city’s population last year, up nearly 6 percentage points in five years.

The non-Hispanic white population, once 70 percent, fell to 63 percent.

Leo Perales, a former city council candidate who has pushed the city to embrace inclusiveness, said he’s not surprised. When he was campaigning for council this summer, it was common to find fellow Latinos who chose Kennewick for its good schools, jobs and neighborhoods.

“These are individuals going out of their way to look up data,” he said. “It’s growing and there’s economic opportunity.”

Kennewick’s population was 50.4 percent male and 49.6 percent female, a shift in the balance to male majority.

The median age was 33.8 and 71.3 percent of the population is of voting age.

About 13 percent of residents were 65 or older. The median home value is $181,900 and 25.6 percent of Kennewick residents age 25 and over had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

There was no immediate explanation for a sadder trend.

Last year, about 14 percent of women were widows, up from 7.5 percent five years earlier. Pasco and Richland did not show similar numbers.

Pasco

For Pasco, confirmation that the population keeps growing comes as the school district is asking voters to approve a $99.5 million bond in November to pay for two new elementary schools, a middle school, rebuilding Stevens Middle School and $7 million in other improvements, all to help keep up with rising enrollment.

Spokesman Shane Edinger said the district factors growth projections from a variety of sources.

The census data confirms that Pasco is not only growing, it’s growing at the margins.

The city recorded significant increases in both its preschool-age population and percent of its residents who are over the age of 65.

Children under five represent almost 10 percent of the population, or nearly 7,000 future pupils.

The source of the newcomers isn’t hard to find. Pasco approved 1,320 new homes between 2012 to 2016.

Decades ago, Pasco was mostly a black and white community. The Latino shift began in the ‘80s and Pasco is now a minority-majority city where 57 percent of residents are Latino.

Pasco is the youngest of the Tri-Cities with a median age of 28.7 years.

Its population is 51.2 percent male and 48.8 percent female, a reversal from five years ago. Nearly 66 percent of the city’s residents are of voting age and nearly 8 percent are 65 or older.

The median home value is $180,600 and just over 16 percent of residents age 25 and over have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Richland School District

Richland and West Richland gained a combined 6,500 residents, bringing the total population to 73,504 in 2016.

Its 9.6 percent growth rate would rank it the state’s fourth fastest-growing city if it were a single entity.

The cities approved 1,274 single-family home permits since 2012 — 859 in Richland and 415 in West Richland.

The median age is 34.8 years and 52.6 percent of residents are female to 47.4 percent male.

Nearly 71 percent of residents are of voting age and 39 percent of those over age 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The median home value was $238,000.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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