SEBRING - If further proof was needed that Highlands County has a growing international flavor, the Census Bureau has released this statistic:
Of the 82,999 adults in 2012, 6,196 have foreign-born spouses. And Highlands County is not the exception.
11.4 million married-couple American households - that's 21 percent - counted at least one spouse born in another country. About 7.3 million households had two foreign-born spouses.
These statistics come from Married-Couple Households by Nativity Status: 2011.
"As the immigrant population has grown, so has the chance that a native-born person will meet and marry a foreign-born spouse," said Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau's Foreign-Born Population Branch. "The number of mixed-nativity married-couple households corresponds with the increase in immigration to the United States over the last several decades."
Highlands County growers have been using foreign-born fruit pickers for decades; many are itinerants, but others have stayed, bought houses, opened businesses, produced children, and become a large part of the community.
As of Dec. 19, the school board said that 32 percent of all 12,223 students identified themselves as Hispanic, versus 45 percent white and 16.6 percent black. At Avon Elementary, Fred Wild Elementary, Lake Country Elementary, Memorial Elementary, Park Elementary and Avon Park Middle, Hispanics are in the majority.
At Avon Park High School, Hispanics are just 10 students away from being the majority ethnic group. At graduation, Hispanic names are also dominating honors rolls and cum laude lists.
In Highlands County, 81 percent of the 98,591 identified themselves as white; 9 percent said they are black, 1.5 percent answered Asian, and .5 percent said American or Alaskan native.
Of those same 98,591, 17.4 percent said they are Hispanic. As a subset, 8.2 identified Mexican ancestry, 5.2 percent were Puerto Rican, 1.7 percent were Cuban.
Of the 17,157 Hispanics, 10,168 identified their race as white only, 513 as black only, and 1,034 as mixed race.
Other highlights from the census brief:
55 percent of foreign-born spouses were wives.
40 percent of foreign-born spouses were born in Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Europe, 26 percent, and Asia, 23 percent.
Foreign-born husbands were more likely to have been born in Latin America and the Caribbean; foreign-born wives were more likely to have been born in Asia.