Big Mat-Su growth helps drive Alaska population over 700,000

DIVERSITY INCREASE: Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Asian people's numbers climb.

March 16, 2011 

Alaska's population has grown by 83,299 people since 2000, and more than one-third of that growth happened in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The 2010 U.S. census figures released on Wednesday show that Mat-Su's population was 88,995, up from 59,322 in 2000.

The total state population was 710,231, up from 626,932. Anchorage's population went from 260,283 in 2000 to 291,826 in the latest census.

The 2000s brought increased racial diversity to the state, especially among residents under 18, building on a trend that began in 1990s.

The racial breakdown in the 2010 numbers show:

• 66 percent of the population as white;

• 14 percent as Alaska Native or American Indian;

• 5 percent as Asian;

• 3 percent as black;

• 1 percent as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Several ethnic and minority subgroups -- Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and people of more than one race -- grew faster than the population at large. A considerable number of Alaskans, 51,875, or 7 percent, were classified as belonging to two or more races. That's more than a 50 percent increase since 2000. Most are under the age of 18.

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders more than doubled in number, from 3,309 to 7,409.

The Hispanic or Latino category rose from 25,852 in 2000 to 39,249 in 2010, another increase of more than 50 percent.

The Asian group, one of the state's fastest growing groups, mostly lives in Anchorage. But Asians are also a prominent percentage of the population in fishing communities. Asians account for about one in four residents of the Aleutian chain. In Kodiak and Sand Point, the number is one in three.

LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS WILL CHANGE

The census numbers, delivered to the state of Alaska's Redistricting Board on Tuesday, will be used to determine the boundaries of state legislative districts for the next 10 years. With the bulk of the population increase concentrated in urban areas such as Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula, the new numbers will likely require a reduction in districts apportioned to Southeast and rural Alaska and an increase in the number of districts on the road system.

An even apportionment of the 40-member State House, for example, would have one representative for every 17,756 people.

Nearly every House district in the Mat-Su, Fairbanks, Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage, with the exception of District 26, Turnagain-Inlet View, is reasonably well represented. Palmer, Wasilla and rural Mat-Su, are under-represented, with a total of 73,183, more than enough for four districts. The Farmer's Loop area of Fairbanks and North Pole also exceed 20,000 each in the new count.

On the other hand, every district in Southeast, Kodiak, the Aleutians, rural Alaska and the Interior, (aside from Fairbanks) is over-represented. Only two of those 10 districts come close to the ideal number: the North Slope, with 17,516 residents, and Bethel, with 16,055.

District 5, which covers Cordova and some Southeast Islands, is the most over-represented district with 13,846 residents.

As mandated by the Alaska Constitution, the redistricting board has 30 days to adopt a draft plan or plans and 60 days after that to adopt a final plan.

RURAL ALASKA

While the Mat-Su reported the biggest population gain, the biggest population loss was reported in the Yukon-Koyokuk region, down 14.7 percent, from 6,551 in 2000 to 5,588 in the latest count.

Other Bush communities grew, however, led by Bethel, which increased from 5,471 to 6,080, retaining its title as the largest community on the American mainland unreachable by either road or ferry service. Other towns off the road system with populations over 1,000 include Barrow (4,121), Nome (3,598), Kotzebue (3,201), Dillingham (2,329) and Hooper Bay (1,093).


Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.

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