Fueled by big increases in the number of Hispanic and black residents, Palm Beach County's population grew by 16.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, new U.S. Census Bureau figures show.
The county's official 2010 census population is 1,320,134 -- up from 1,131,184 in 2000.
Figures released today show some dramatic demographic shifts locally and statewide.
The number of non-Hispanic white people in Palm Beach County decreased by 0.6 percent during the decade to 793,571. That's still a majority, but a shrinking one. Non-Hispanic whites now make up 60.1 percent of Palm Beach County's population, down from 70.6 percent in 2000.
Palm Beach County's Hispanic population exploded by 78.3 percent during the decade to 250,823. Hispanics, who can be members of any race, are now 19 percent of county residents, up from 12.4 percent in 2000.
The county's non-Hispanic black population jumped 45.1 percent to 221,209. Black people who are not Hispanic make up 16.8 percent of the county population, compared to a 13.5 percent share in 2000.
As in Palm Beach County, Florida's overall population increase of 17.6 percent between 2000 and 2010 was driven largely by minorities. The state's Hispanic population swelled 57.4 percent and its non-Hispanic black population increased 25.9 percent while the number of non-Hispanic whites grew by 4.1 percent.
Several of Florida's other large urbanized counties -- including Broward, Miami-Dade, Pinellas and Duval -- also saw decreases in their non-Hispanic white populations between 2000 and 2010.
The Census Bureau released state-by-state population figures in December. The data released today shows population and demographic information within Florida and will be used by state lawmakers to draw new congressional and legislative districts before the 2012 elections.
"The biggest thing in my mind is political representation," said Lia Gaines, president of the West Palm Beach branch of the NAACP. She was active in efforts to make sure the census accurately counted black residents.
"Even though you have population growth, it doesn't mean that the people are sharing in the economic resourcesPolicy hasn't kept up with population growth," Gaines said.
Jorge Avellana, executive director of the nonprofit Hispanic Human Resources Council, said he expected to see the county's Hispanic population grow, but was surprised by how much.
Avellana said Palm Beach County's Hispanic population appears to be more spread out than in other counties.
"I am very proud of the fact that in Palm Beach County, the melting pot works. You see Hispanics everywhere...We have assimilated into the mainstream of the American lifestyle," Avellana said.
The new census figures show that the percentage of Palm Beach County residents who are under 18 has remained relatively constant at 20 percent. But the composition of the youth population has shifted. Minorities now make up 57 percent of the children in the county, compared to 45 percent in 2000.
The new figures show 55.5 percent of Palm Beach County residents live in cities or towns, with the remainder in unincorporated areas.
West Palm Beach, with a population of 99,919, is the county's largest city, followed by Boca Raton's population of 84,392 and Boynton Beach's 68,217.
Palm Beach County remains the third-largest county in the state, trailing only Miami-Dade (2.5 million) and Broward (1.7 million) counties.
Since Palm Beach County was established in 1909, the only other census in which its growth was slower than the state's was 1950. That year's headcount showed the county had grown 43.4 percent over the previous decade while Florida's population increased 46.1 percent.
In the 2010 census, Martin County grew 15.5 percent to 146,318 residents. St. Lucie County's population jumped 44.2 percent to 277,789.
Flagler County south of Jacksonville was Florida's fastest-growing county between 2000 and 2010, increasing 92 percent to 95,696 residents. Monroe County saw an 8.2 percent population decline to 73,090. Pinellas County was the only other county in the state to lose residents, dropping 0.5 percent to 916,542.
Staff writer Adam Playford contributed to this story.
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