Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

County’s Hispanic Population Growing


The ethnic makeup of San Diego is changing. The North County communities of Escondido and Vista have seen a large increase in their Hispanic population in recent years. How will these demographic changes in the county affect local politics, the economy, and our culture in the future?

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Even before the 2010 census is completed, we’re seeing some numbers that indicate San Diego is changing rather quickly. Why do we need to keep track of population growth and age or ethnic composition of our community or is this just an exercise for people who like statistics? Alisa, before we get to that essential question, what changes are we seeing in San Diego?

ALISA JOYCE BARBA (Western Bureau Chief, NPR News): Well, one of the changes that we’re here to talk about today is in North County, there’s a significant increase in the proportion of Hispanic population, specifically we’re talking about Escondido where Latinos now make up a greater proportion of the population than Caucasians and whites, and in Vista as well. And that is a change. We’ve seen that in South County for many, many years and, you know, in Chula Vista and those areas where there’s always been a higher Hispanic population but now there’s more and more moving into the North County and even the north inland, which is really interesting.

PENNER: Why do we need to know this? What’s so important about it? I mean, how does a changing demographic like this affect a community?

BARBA: Politics, economics, the schools. Every single thing about a community is determined by its demographic makeup, I think.

PENNER: Andrew, what kind of changes can we expect when we see that a community now has a plurality of Hispanics.

ANDREW DONOHUE (Editor, Well, first what we see is tension, which is what we’ve seen in Escondido and Vista with many different laws and sort of political efforts that have been construed by many people as being either anti-Latino or anti-immigrant. But then the second part you have eventually, and I think this is much more longterm is then political power. There’s one Latina on the city council, Olga Diaz, in Escondido. She recently won and that was sort of a shift in how they’ve been conducting things and I think slowly over time then you’ll see more and more political power as a younger generation matures.

PENNER: Okay, well, let me ask our callers about that, our listeners who will become callers when they hear my question. And that is, yes, indeed, there are changes afoot in San Diego. We’re especially seeing them in North County. South County used to be known for the fact that – of its large Hispanic population and now we’re seeing at Escondido, the largest group is Hispanic, and in Vista the Hispanic population is tied as the largest with the white population, so there are changes. What do these changes mean to you? And do you think it’s important to track them. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. David King, the Hispanic population tends to be younger with one in three Hispanic residents under 18. The median age for Escondido’s Hispanic residents is only 26 while the median age for whites is 43. What are the implications for, let’s say, the workforce and the education system when you suddenly realize that your population is skewing younger?

DAVID KING (Editor/Founder, Yeah, well, it just means it’s going to be skewed more Hispanic in the future. It – The Hispanics have – who tend to – the Mexicans that migrate to America come and tend to plant roots. They tend to stay and they tend to succeed, each generation succeeding more than the previous one. There’ve been a lot of people in North County who’ve come here and with the building boom there were a lot of people working in construction. These are the people now are probably suffering as much as everybody else with the freeze in construction but that, you know, they’ll go on, they’ll raise families here. Their children will be more likely to be registered to vote. They will have greater influence and the makeup of Escondido will look more, you know, the political makeup will resemble more like cities where the Hispanic population is entrenched and established. It’s a longterm trend and, you know, it’s a positive trend for the City of Escondido and its economic future. You know, if it’s purely on racial grounds then people may be uncomfortable with the changing makeup of what their city looks like around them but the Mexican population that will – that has moved to Escondido will move and stay. They’re not transient types. They’re going to come, they will stay, they will build families and they will go on and their families will succeed.

PENNER: Okay. Well, we’re getting a lot of people who are interested in this. I’m going to throw out one idea for you to kind of chew on, editors, while we’re listening to the callers. The Escondido City Council is looking favorably at building a triple-A baseball stadium there. I’m wondering what impact the city’s pattern has, you know, when we realize that there’s going to be a larger Hispanic population and a younger one and whether that kind of demographic, excuse me, will – has an effect on this kind of decision. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Let’s hear from Alex now in Del Mar. Alex, you’re on with the editors.

ALEX (Caller, Del Mar): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.


ALEX: As a young listener, I’m 22, I just wanted to comment that, yes, ethnicity is important but also age is something to consider. As the older generation becomes larger and my generation has to support those baby boomers, I think the voters and policy makers really need to consider, you know, tearing off the bandaid now and considering what is ahead in the future.

PENNER: Okay, thank you very much, Alex.

ALEX: Thank you.

PENNER: You’re welcome. Glad that you called in. So, you see, our listeners are skewing younger, too, and that’s most interesting to hear. What – So we were talking about that baseball stadium and if I want to kind of couch it in a more general term, what kind of social changes can we expect? Alisa?

BARBA: Well, you know, it was interesting. In some of the things we’re reading about this, the – I think the mayor of National City was saying that as his population, the population of National City, became more and more Hispanic, they have to build more soccer fields instead of baseball fields. I mean, I think that once we get into the second generation or third generation, things change and baseball is as important as soccer. But I think that we all know in San Diego that there’s a heavily Latino interest and participation in soccer. So that’s a very big thing. One of the things I thought was really interesting as well, both in Vista and in Escondido, is a lot of the traditional white politicians there were decrying the separation of the populations. They were talking about how the Latino-Mexican or Hispanic population tended to, quote, unquote, live by themselves in their own neighborhoods and that they didn’t assimilate in many of the ways that older other, you know, immigrant populations from other countries did. And I was wondering why that was happening more in Escondido or in Vista than it does in other neighborhoods in San Diego. I don’t know why.

PENNER: You don’t know why. Can you take a guess, Andrew or David?

DONOHUE: Yeah, actually, I don’t know that it’s any different than any other neighborhood. I think it’s very natural that the first generation of any immigrant population doesn’t assimilate because there are problems with language, there are problems with culture, but we see that assimilation really hit home with the second generation.

PENNER: And David?

KING: I think that San Diego, having lived all around the country, should commend itself for being a racially harmonious community here area wide. The tension now in between – you know, the distinction should be between immigration and illegal immigration, and there has been a great deal of focus lately on, in the past five years or so, illegal immigration and the cost that the public bear for illegal immigrants and that’s a very legitimate concern, and the two should be distinguished and not, you know, be lumped in together that just, okay, we’re not liking the change in the makeup of our community. It’s a very legitimate concern for people to be up in arms about illegal immigration.

PENNER: And a final comment from you, Alisa.

BARBA: The numbers that we’re looking at in Northern San Diego County, we do not break down whether these are legal or illegal…

KING: Right.

BARBA: …immigrants so that we have a – we have what seems to be a homogenous Hispanic population. We don’t know how many are legal and how many are illegal. So the tension and the unhappiness tends to focus on the entire population.

KING: Right.

PENNER: And just briefly, Alisa, immigration has slowed down as the economy has slowed. Will that make a difference?

BARBA: Yes, of course it will. It’s drastically slowed down, and I think that the job magnet has more or less dried up in the last couple years.

PENNER: All right, well, I just want to thank the editors for a yeoman’s job or a yeo-person’s job this morning. A great, great conversation, very stimulating, and I look forward to our next time together. So thank you very much David King from and from Andrew Donohue from And Alisa Joyce Barba is leaving NPR at the moment, and she will be going on to other adventures and we look forward to having her back as an editor for a different organization. We’ve enjoyed having you enormously, Alisa, and, again, ‘til the next time.

BARBA: Thank you, Gloria.

PENNER: And I want to wish a very happy birthday to Cerise Maue. Cerise, enjoy your birthday and enjoy the rest of the day. This has been the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.