Recession brings diversity to Sarasota
An unexpected outgrowth of the worst recession in 70 years: Sarasota has quietly become more cosmopolitan.
While hard times discouraged Midwesterners and New Englanders from moving here, more Peruvians, Italians, Brazilians, Ukranians and many others made the Gulf Coast home.
The foreign-born population in Manatee and Sarasota counties jumped 57 percent during the first decade of the 21st century — double the national growth.
Of course, the overall population of the two counties grew at nearly double the national rate, too. But Manatee and Sarasota looked much more like America in 2010 than they did in 2000.
At the beginning of the decade, just 8.4 percent of Manatee's population was born in another country. By the end of the decade, that grew to 12.2 percent. In Sarasota County, the number rose from 9.3 percent to 11.5 percent.
Larger metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Miami have long been gateways for the foreign-born. This secondary shift to more sedate locales like Sarasota is a nationwide phenomenon, says David Jacobson, a political sociologist at the University of South Florida who focuses on migration and citizenship issues.
"We are seeing a tipping point where minorities are now at least half of the population in the biggest cities," Jacobson says. "But immigration is changing smaller cities and towns as well. Hispanics and Asians in particular are moving beyond the traditional ethnic enclaves of the large metropolitan areas."
Such is the story of Southwest Florida's tiny but dynamic Bangladeshi community, which swelled from seven to 90 residents from 2000 to 2010. A migration like theirs is recession-proof, says Stefan Rayner, a research demographer for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.
"With international migration you generally have a large family component," Rayner notes. "They may or may not come for economic reasons, but because they want to be with family. That can add up to a significant instream, especially when the economy is not doing too well."
Recession brings diversity to Sarasota - Herald-Tribune - March 24, 2012