Oklahoma Metro Map

Oklahoma historical overview

Oklahoma has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the United States. In just 5 years the Latino population rose by 30 percent, from 179,304 in 2000 to 234,159 in 2005, making Latinos the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the state. Of the total foreign born 48.6 percent report a Latin American origin. As the undocumented population is often underestimated in census data, the figure is likely to be considerably higher. Latinos in Oklahoma are both old

Mexican Restaurant in Altus, Oklahoma (2008). Courtesy of Linda Allegro.

and new, with some fourth-generation Mexican Americans dating their heritage prior to statehood in 1907 and more recent migration flows reflecting national trends. Driven by a desire to seek untapped work possibilities, affordable housing, and safer neighborhoods, Latin American migrations to new destinations in middle America have generally increased in the past 20 years. Latinos in Oklahoma reflect both direct migrations from Latin America as well as internal migrations from highly populated cities in California, Arizona, and Texas, from which Latino families are moving away to escape the hardships often associated with inner-city life.

Despite their growing numbers, Latinos comprise merely 6.6 percent of the total population of Oklahoma, trailing behind Native Americans and African Americans, who represent respectively 12 percent (400,000) and 9 percent (300,000) of the state’s population. Rather than being evenly dispersed throughout the state, Latinos are concentrated in three counties: Oklahoma, Tulsa, and Comanche. People of Latin American heritage tend to be concentrated in urban centers, especially in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas, although rural growth is expanding, particularly in Guymon and other parts of Oklahoma’s panhandle because of labor recruitment efforts in the meatpacking and related industries.

Most of Oklahoma’s Latinos are of Mexican origin. Unofficially, Mexicans are estimated to comprise approximately three-fourths of all Latinos in the state. State demographic projections indicate that overall population growth will be quite modest in the next 25 years. The Latino population, however, is expected to nearly triple during this period.

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