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Recession did not stop Hispanics’ rising economic influence in Idaho

The recession took a significant bite out of Idaho’s economy in 2009 but did not stop the growth of Hispanic economic influence.

The buying power of all 1.5 million Idahoans rose fractionally from 2008 to 2009, but Hispanic buying power grew 10 times faster than the buying power of the state’s non-Hispanic majority, according to estimates from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia contained in a report that the Idaho Department of Labor prepared.

The buying power of Idaho’s Hispanic population rose 3.1 percent in 2009 to $2.5 billion – less than half the 7.7 percent increase that pushed its 2008 buying power over $2.4 billion but still exceeding a national growth of 2.8 percent, the Idaho Department of Labor said in a release. Last year was the sixth straight year Idaho Hispanics have fared better than Hispanics nationwide.

By contrast, non-Hispanic Idaho buying power was up three-tenths of a percent in 2009 to $41.3 billion compared to 3.8 percent growth in 2008. It was the second year in a row that buying power for non-Hispanics in Idaho grew less than for non-Hispanics nationally.

Idaho’s growth ratio of 10 to one is higher than the ratio for all but 11 other states.

Margie Gonzalez, Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs executive director, told the Idaho Business Review that she is not surprised by the data as Hispanics are the fastest growing population in Idaho and the largest minority group. Idaho Hispanics “see the value of being strong contributors to our state’s economy,” she said.

Rural counties that are more dependent on agriculture have weathered the recession better than Idaho as a whole, she said. Rural counties are home to 37 percent of Idaho’s Hispanics compared to 29 percent of the non-Hispanic population, she said, citing Idaho at a Glance, a University of Idaho report that uses U.S. Census Bureau data. She expects the 2010 Census to show that these trends are continuing.

Combined, Hispanic and non-Hispanic buying power totaled $43.8 billion in 2009, an increase of just $203 million, the Idaho Department of Labor said.

Buying power is the after-tax personal income people have to spend on virtually everything from necessities like food, clothing and housing to luxuries like recreation equipment and vacations. It does not include money borrowed or saved from previous years or spent by tourists from other states or countries.

In the last 20 years, the Hispanic share of Idaho’s total buying power has doubled from 2.8 percent to 5.7 percent. The increase is primarily the result of a growing Hispanic population, which since 1990 has doubled as a percentage of total population to 10.2 percent. But the $2.5 billion influence exerted by Hispanics in Idaho has culturally and economically diversified the state and generated business opportunities across the board.

The recession’s impact has been telling, but while Hispanics in 14 counties saw their buying power decline from 2008 to 2009, non-Hispanics felt the same contraction in 31 of the 44 counties.

In line with the state trend, only five of the 14 counties where Hispanic buying power decreased saw the Hispanic share of countywide buying power decline. In the others, the decline in Hispanic buying power was not as severe as it was for non-Hispanics.


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