Anushka Figueroa recently decided to make a change. She gave up her life in California’s Silicon Valley and headed to Phoenix to work in marketing.
The 37-year-old, who is originally from Puerto Rico, said she was searching for a better quality of life.
Her new home, she says, offers all the benefits that California did when her family moved there in the ’70s. ‘‘California became too expensive,’’ she said, ‘‘and Phoenix has advanced dramatically. It is the best decision I have ever made, and I would not go back.’’
An influx of Hispanics such as Figueroa has reshaped many urban areas’ demographics; demographers say white people soon will be a minority in 35 of the country’s 50 largest cities.
An analysis of census data released last week has shown that the white non-Hispanic population in another three of America’s 50 largest cities has become a minority. In Phoenix, Tucson and Denver, the white population has recently fallen below 50 percent, according to William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.
Karen Peters, the Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator for the city of Phoenix, said she had not had a chance to see the data yet, but the results of the analysis did not surprise her.
“Certainly that is the trend,” Peters said. ”(Phoenix has) been headed in this direction for many years.”
Frey predicts that another four cities will soon follow. Whites will become a minority in Arlington, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; and Las Vegas within two years and in Austin, Texas, within four years, he said.
Although these changes were once driven by ‘‘white flight,’’ Frey said, something else contributed in the cities that most recently reached the tipping point. While they were still losing some whites, the more dramatic shift was the increase in Hispanics, some of whom were moving from California and elsewhere in the United States in search of a better — and more affordable — life.
Figueroa is part of a Hispanic population in Phoenix that has increased from 34 percent of the population to 48 percent in just five years.
‘‘For years, Phoenix has been a retirement magnet, but now the big gain is immigration and secondary migration from California,’’ Frey said. ‘‘Phoenix is still West but more affordable. All three cities are influenced by the exodus from California, and Hispanics are part of that.’’
He said Phoenix and Denver were ‘‘new-West cities’’ where economic change and new industries had created jobs.
Harry Garewal, president of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said part of the explanation for the growth in the Hispanic population is the area’s ‘‘very robust economy.’’
Speaking from his Phoenix office, he said growth has created a greater demand for labor, particularly in construction. He said Arizona has 35,000 Hispanic-owned businesses, adding that the ‘‘Hispanic population in the state of Arizona have $26 billion in buying power.’’ The local white population, he said, has benefited from a Hispanicdriven boost to the economy.
The demographic shift has social as well as economic consequences. Schools have to cope with more children who don’t natively speak English, and politicians have to accept that their constituencies have changed. ‘‘They will wake up one morning, and it will be a different city,’’ Frey said.