Immigrant population in Shawnee County nearly doubles since 2000
Foreign-born population remains a small minority in the Topeka region, but since 2000 the area has seen an influx of immigrants. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the immigrant population has grown from 4,554 in 2000 to 8,124 in 2013, which is a 7percent increase over the period, while the overall population has increased from 169,871 to 178,378, or just a 5percent increase over the same period. In other words, out of the 8,507 overall increase, 3,570 or about 4percent is from the increase in foreign-born residents.
The immigrant population is quite diverse, with nearly 60percen from Latin America and 20percent of Asian origin, and also in two extremes when it comes to education level: on the one end are those who have not completed high-school, and on the other are those with college education and beyond. According to the figures reported, immigrants were actually more likely to be employed than native Kansas residents with over 69percent reporting they had a job (Capital-Journal did not report what the comparable number is for native residents).
The increase in foreign-born residents has led to a growth in the English-language learning programs, with the Topeka USD 501 recently hiring 19 new teachers. The ELL student body has risen from 851 in 2010 to 1,750 in 2015, more than doubling in a span of five years. The majority of the student population counts Spanish as their native tongue, but there are other students from all kinds of cultural background.
Topeka area is not known for being the most international area, the recent growth in immigrant population is a welcoming sign of globalization and bringing in different cultures from around the world. The influx of these residents is also providing much needed labor: the number of working-age Americans aged 35-44 has been on the decrease in Topeka in recent years. The integration of Topeka's newest residents to the local community will be the key to continued prosperity and growth in Shawnee County and the rest of Kansas.