MANATEE -- The kaleidoscope that is Manatee County’s population became even more colorful in the past decade, according to government figures released Thursday.
While the county remains overwhelmingly white, other races -- black, Asian and others -- accounted for a greater share of Manatee’s population in 2010 than they did a decade earlier, new Census data shows.
Whites accounted for 81.9 percent of Manatee’s 322,833 residents when the census was conducted last year, down from 86.4 percent in 2000. Blacks made up 8.7 percent last year, a half-percentage-point gain from a decade earlier.
But the fastest-growing groups were Asians and those who said they were mixed-race or some other race. Their combined share of Manatee’s population rose from 5.1 percent in 2000 to 8.9 percent last year. The proportion of American/native Indians and Hawaiian/Pacific islanders were flat.
“You are not unique,” said Stefan Rayer, a demographer with the University of Florida’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “There are many places with more-diverse populations.”
Higher birth rates among blacks and Hispanics, lower birth and higher death rates among whites, and increased immigration are among factors causing the racial and ethnic shift, he said.
Hispanics, which are an ethnicity and not a race, made up 9 percent of the county in 2000. Last year, it was nearly 15 percent as their numbers doubled to nearly 48,000.
That percentage might have been even higher had the housing market not collapsed, eliminating construction jobs held by Hispanics, said Jim Delgado, a Palmetto lawyer involved in immigration issues.
“People have been telling me for years that all the Hispanics are leaving. No, they’re not,” said Delgado, whose parents are Mexican and Puerto Rican. “A lot of these families have dug in, settled down and are raising families here. We’re all part of the fabric now.”
And there’s a little more gray sprinkled in there, as Manatee continued to get older along with the rest of Florida.
The county’s median age -- the point where half are older and half are younger -- rose by two years to 45.7 years. Manatee remained five years older than Florida as a whole.
“That’s what we should be worried about,” said Delgado, voicing concerns that young adults are leaving Manatee in search of better job opportunities elsewhere. “The lifestyle of this area is not suitable for a single person of that age.”
Other tidbits about Manatee from the latest Census data:
n Ellenton was the county’ most-diverse area, with minorities accounting for nearly 1 in 3 residents there last year. They made up only 1.6 percent of Longboat Key residents.
n The foreclosure crisis has led to more empty homes. More than one in five Manatee residences, or 21.4 percent, was vacant last year. That figure was 18.6 percent in 2000.