MERIDEN — The city’s population of Latino residents grew by nearly 27% between 2010 and 2020, mirroring statewide trends, according to an analysis of recently released census data.
That analysis of local 2020 U.S. Census counts was shared by DataHaven, a New Haven-based nonprofit. It shows the city’s overall population, which in 2020 totaled 60,850 residents, experienced a slight overall decline of 18 residents since the 2010 count.
But while the population remained stagnant, the city has become more diverse. The number of residents who identified as Latino or Hispanic was 22,295 residents. In 2010, 17,590 residents had identified similarly. Within a decade, that demographic’s population increased by 26.74%.
It is similar to increases seen statewide and countywide. Overall, Connecticut’s population of Latino and Hispanic residents increased by 30%: from 479,089 residents in 2010 to 623,293 in 2020. Across New Haven County, tallies showed a 31% increase: from 129,743 Hispanic and Latino residents in 2010, to 170,081 residents 10 years later.
In Meriden, the Latino population now represents more than 36.6% of the overall city population.
But that population is not the only demographic group whose numbers increased. The population of non-Hispanic or Latino residents who identified as two or more races more than doubled: from 1,036 residents in 2010 to 2,171 in 2020. Meanwhile, the population of white, non-Hispanic residents, declined by 19%: from 35,809 in 2010 to 29,104 a decade later.
That population shift can be seen in children and adults. Within the 10-year span between counts, the city’s population of Latino children under the age of 18 grew to 7,103, from 6,502. Meanwhile the population of white, non-Hispanic/Latino children, declined considerably: from 5,677 in 2010, to 3,676 a decade later.
State Rep. Hilda Santiago co-chaired the city’s Census Count Committee along with Mayor Kevin Scarpati. The Census Count Committee’s in-person work was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee relied on partnerships with groups and agencies like the Meriden Clergy Association, who encouraged members of their congregations to complete their census forms, along with the Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis Center and the Midstate Chamber of Commerce.
Santiago explained the committee partnered with small businesses, including barbers and hair salon owners in order to display posters and distribute other cards with information. The committee also reached out to landlords to distribute information to their tenants.
That outreach included making appearances on local Spanish language radio, “to get the message out there,” Santiago said.
Santiago said in her years of public service, she has observed the growth of the city’s Latino population, which she described as “close knit.”
That growth has led to an increased need for a diverse educator workforce. Santiago said the city needs to continue to recruit teachers, who she described as role models, “so Hispanic and Latino kids can see somebody teaching that looks like them.”
Santiago described similar needs in other city departments, including public safety, where she said the city still lacks adequate representation to fully meet the needs of residents.
DataHaven Executive DIrector Mark Abraham said overall the data his organization analyzed show increases in the numbers of census respondents who listed multiple races and ethnicities in response to questions regarding identity.
“The multi-racial category increased a lot,” Abraham said. “Part of that is growing diversity and part of that is people being more willing to identify as being more than one race in origin.”
The data released earlier this month is just the first batch of data related to the 2020 count that the U.S. Census Bureau is set to release. Abraham noted other data sets regarding household and makeup and home ownership are also slated for release.
In Meriden, Scarpat said the role of the city’s Census Count Committee was to educate, inform and encourage residents to complete the census to ensure the count was accurate.
“If anything else, these numbers will illustrate the fruits of our labor, and showcase really what Meriden’s population looks like as accurately as possible,” Scarpati said.
“Fortunately we got started before the pandemic really hit us,” he said. The committee also used technology to the “greatest extent” it could, Scarpati said. But the city wasn’t alone in facing that challenge.
The committee also had to assure census respondents that a question about their statuses as U.S. citizens was not on the census form and that their information would be kept safe.
“That was a challenge we needed to get over,” Scarpati said. “So we had to do community outreach through churches and other groups, very much like our vaccine effort, of reaching out to trusted messengers.”