Nevada’s numbers double down |

Nevada’s numbers double down


LAS VEGAS (AP) – Nevada parlayed an explosion in Las Vegas Strip megaresorts into the nation’s largest rate of population gain – 66.3 percent – over the past decade, U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday show.

Nevada’s resident population grew by nearly 800,000 – from 1,201,833 in 1990 to 1,998,257 in 2000.

In fact, state estimates in July put the population above 2 million, state demographer Jeff Hardcastle said.

”Historically, we’ve been one of the fastest growing states decade to decade after the 1940 census,” he said. ”That’s where Nevada begins to have dramatic percentage changes year to year.”

An estimated 6,000 people move to the Las Vegas valley in Clark County each month, bringing the state an economic boon, new political power, heavy demands for services and a continually changing populace.

The pace of growth is so fast that federal and state numbers lag behind, along with funding for police and fire protection, new schools, parks and recreation, local government officials say.

”You are constantly a year to 18 months behind the revenue stream because compared to people moving in you don’t get credit until 12 to 22 months later,” said Phil Speight, city manager of Henderson. The suburban city east of Las Vegas is officially the state’s third largest according to the census but one that in reality already has passed Reno for the second spot. ”We grew at 21,000 people last year. That’s a lot larger than we receive revenue for.”

”Henderson has been the fastest-growing city of its size in the country,” he said, 170 percent over the past decade.

The growth also has translated into more power in Washington, D.C. Nevada will add a third seat in Congress when reapportionment is completed thanks to its burgeoning numbers.

The third representative will have a constituency that is increasingly diverse, the census shows.

”That’s not surprising,” said Bob Erickson, research director for the Nevada Legislature. ”America is getting a lot more diverse. What is surprising is where the growth came from.”

Census figures show the number of white residents went from 84.2 percent of the population in 1990 to 75 percent in 2000, while blacks increased slightly from 6.55 percent to 6.78.

As expected, numbers from the census bureau show the Hispanic population – nearly 400,000 – exploded from 1.35 percent of the state’s total population to nearly 20 percent. The Asian population increased from 3.17 to 4.52 percent.

Direct comparisons of racial figures with 1990 data were impossible, however, because people previously could choose from only five racial categories compared with 63 in the latest census.

At the same time, more than 76,428 people in Nevada took advantage of a first-time option to identify themselves as more than one race.

”That means I consider myself part white and something else,” Erickson said.

More interesting, according to Erickson, is that 159,354 residents – or 8 percent – described themselves as ”some other race” nearly double 1990 figures.

”I think this is higher than most states,” he said, adding that while most Mexican-Americans are considered ”white” by the Census Bureau, ”it’s very confusing for people filling out the forms.”

With the opening of a dozen megaresorts on the Strip since 1989 beginning with the Mirage hotel-casino, workers have flooded to the state that relies on tourism.

”There’s no state taxes; there’s beautiful, beautiful weather – no wind chill factor; and the cost of living is cheaper than back home,” said Lisa Splichal, a 22-year-old transplant from Minneapolis, who moved here last May to work for the Strip’s newest megaresort, the Aladdin, as a marketing coordinator. ”Minneapolis is supposed to be so cultured, but you come out here and you can do anything.”

Clark County grew by 85.5 percent as a result, from 741,459 in 1990 to 1,375,765 in 2000, to make it the state’s fastest growing county.

In the north, Washoe County – home to Reno, the ”Biggest Little City in the World” – remained the state’s second largest with 339,486 residents. It saw a 33.3 percent growth rate from 254,667 in 1990.

Out of the state’s 17 counties, the biggest percentage loser was Esmeralda at 27.8 percent. It remained the least populated county with a mere 971 residents.

Mineral County, among the rural counties where mining slowdowns have stunted growth, lost the most residents at 1,404.

Las Vegas remained the state’s largest city with 478,434 residents, while Reno and Henderson remain neck-in-neck for the second-largest honors at 180,480 and 175,381, respectively.

North Las Vegas came in fourth with 115,488 residents.

”Nevada’s growth continues because of employment, lifestyle or a desire to be closer to family,” Hardcastle said.

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