LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas — The face of the Houston area is changing fast, according to the recent U.S. Census report.
KHOU 11 Investigates has taken a closer look at the data and found that most of Harris County’s growth came from the Hispanic population, and that community is growing even faster in outlying counties.
Dr. Stephen Klineberg, Rice University Sociologist and Director of the Institution for Urban Research, has been tracking the trend for four decades.
“We're moving into a multiethnic society, a society made up of all the peoples, all the religions, all the ethnicities of the world gathered together in one remarkable place. It's the story of Houston in the 21st century,” Klineberg said.
People in Liberty County have a front-row seat.
Liberty County is home to over 91,628 people, nearly 16,000 (15,985) more than 10 years ago. Its Hispanic population has more than doubled over the last decade -- the most in the entire state.
Locals say it is perhaps most noticeable in Cleveland, in a small neighborhood known as Plum Grove.
“We see a lot of Central American families coming into this area,” Christine Shippey said.
There are signs of growth everywhere. There is a new school under construction and more businesses coming to meet the demand. It is a welcome sight to small business owners like Naomi Cruz, who runs a food trailer on the side of the highway.
Cruz cooks and sells Honduran tacos, chicken with cabbage, homemade salsa, Pico de Gallo and other dishes from her native country.
Cruz moved to Liberty County nearly two years ago.
“There are more business opportunities here,” Cruz said.
When Cruz noticed more Hispanics moving into her neighborhood, she jumped at the chance to cater to their culture.
“When you don’t know much about the customs of people here, well then, it’s nice to live among Hispanics because we understand each other more,” Cruz said.
People like Sandra Lemos moved to Cleveland 10 years ago in search of a community with good schools with affordable housing.
“It made it easier for us to get a house here, because in Houston it costs more compared to here,” Lemos said.
Liberty County is just one example. A dozen other counties in the Houston area are also seeing a growth in residents who identify as Hispanic.
The numbers tell a unique story. Fewer people in the Greater Houston area identify by only one race. More residents prefer to go by two or more races or another race.
Klineberg said it is just the beginning of a historic transformation that will soon be felt across the country.
“America, a microcosm of all the world's peoples, all the world's ethnicities, nowhere more clearly seen in the Greater Houston metropolitan area," he said.
Klineberg said the change is happening for three reasons. The white population known as baby boomers is aging quicker, there has been an increase in interracial marriages, and the Census now gives people the option to check all races that apply.