October 19, 2012

The Midwest Chronicles, Cronicas del Medio Oeste: Diversity downstate flourishes

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By Pam G. Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess — Over the past decade there has been a deep demographic shift in Central Illinois as the population of Hispanics and other ethnicities have dramatically increased across the 16-county region.

Two special sections, entitled Midwest Chronicles: Downstate Diversity Flourishes, were distributed inside the News-Gazette on Friday, Oct.19.

The stories, photos and graphics show the impact of the changes and the successes and struggles of those who have immigrated to Central Illinois – and of those who were born here but who say they still face challenges in becoming a part of their communities. 

The project is a collaboration between Hoy Chicago, a Spanish language daily, and CU-CitizenAccess.org, an online community news site based at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Illinois Public Media also participated in the project and the News-Gazette has provided support. To better serve all readers, the project has stories in both Spanish and English, with additional online content at CU-CitizenAccess.org and Vivelohoy.com

Reporters and editors spent the past six months conducting numerous interviews and analyzing Census, employment, crime and health data across the region– an area that stretched from Livingston in the north and Cumberland in the south to Macon in the west and Vermilion in the east.

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Among the stories:

–       Latino families who have found a welcoming home in Arcola’s Amish country

–       New businesses springing up to serve the growing number of Latino residents in Rantoul

–       The fears of Latinos in Bloomington and across the region of being deported despite living here for years

–       Efforts to mend police-community relations in Champaign and Urbana caused in part by the racial disparities in arrests

The project also includes a detailed map in the second section that shows the demographic changes county by county as drawn from the 2000 and 2012 Census data.  The data show that the Latino population grew more than 13,000 – about a 78 percent increase. The Asian population increased by about 11,300 or about 67 percent, while the black population went up by about 11,700 or 20 percent.

By contrast, the white population declined in all but four counties, but the region – with about 836,000 total persons – remains predominantly white.