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February 16, 2017

Where do Latvians Live?
 
Recent U.S. Census data from the American Community Survey (ACS) show that the number of Latvians in the U.S. has hovered around mid-80,000’s ever since the beginning of the ACS in 2005.
 
Using data from that survey, the following report concludes that the greatest single concentration of Latvians is in the New York metro area and the mega-region stretching from Washington to Boston (approximately a quarter of all the Latvians in the nation).  California and Florida also have large numbers of Latvians. This report looks at: (1) the number of Latvians in various metropolitan areas and (2) the number of Latvians in grouped metropolitan areas, regions or states.
 
Every month the US Census’ ACS sends out 300,000 surveys to households across the nation that include many sociodemographic questions.  Specifically, it asks the ancestry or ethnic origin of every individual in the household. Two responses are recorded for every person who claims multiple ancestry. Annually, more than three million surveys are returned, recorded and tabulated by states, counties, large cities and metropolitan areas.
 
The ACS provides one-year, three-year and five-year compilations. This report uses the recent five-year data (2010-2014), because it provides a particularly large sample (about 15 million) that reduces the margin of error in the reported statistics.  Even with this large sample, the margin of error for many of the metro areas discussed here is in the range of 200 to 500 individuals.  The data are not precise, but provide the best available estimates regarding ethnic ancestry by metropolitan area. The data are used as reported, with the understanding that the numbers are estimates.       
 
Further, it is important to remember that these data are self-reported, and it is not possible to ascertain how Latvian these individuals “feel.”  Also, throughout this report we will refer to these people as Latvians, although many may have a primary ethnic identity that is stronger than their Latvian ancestry.  Certainly, many do not speak Latvian.
 
LARGEST CENTERS.  Nationally, of the approximately 85,300 that have identified “Latvian” as either a first ancestry (44%) or second ancestry (56%), the largest number live in the New York metropolitan area. (The data in the table only use the largest city name, such as San Francisco, rather than San Francisco-Oakland or New York-Newark.)  With approximately nine thousand Latvians, the New York area accounts for one in nine Latvians in the U.S., or about 10.6% of the national total. This is similar to the concentration of Estonians in New York (12.6%). It also compares with the 11.9% of the Lithuanians who live in the Chicago area, their largest ethnic center. (7.8% of the Lithuanians live in the New York area.)
 
STATE DATA. The state with the largest number of Latvians is California (10,719), with the seven largest places accounting for 9,000 of these individuals. The second largest population is in New York (8,570), many living in Metro New York (9,031), Albany (358), Rochester (348), Kingston (346), and Buffalo (274), which together have approximately 10,700 Latvians.  The state total is not larger because many of the 9,031 Latvians in the New York area live in New Jersey (state total of 3,956) and Connecticut (1,754), the 6th and 20th largest Latvian state populations respectively. 
 
Illinois (5,414) ranks third, largely because of the Chicago area (4,926) and Florida (5,057) ranks fourth, concentrated around Miami (1,362) and Tampa-St. Petersburg (875). Michigan (4,534), at number 5, has large numbers of Latvians in Detroit (1,475), Grand Rapids (1,137) and Kalamazoo (571). After New Jersey, Massachusetts (3,754) is seventh largest followed by Pennsylvania (3,605), Ohio (3,295) and Maryland (3,002) to complete the top ten.  Next in line are Minnesota and Wisconsin. 
 
REGIONS. The largest region is the megalopolis in the northeastern part of the country.  It is hard to define precisely, but it includes four of the six largest Latvian metro areas: New York (9,031), Boston (2,876), Washington DC (2,825) and Philadelphia (2,723), with 17,455, or over 20% of the national total. When we add Hartford, Providence, Bridgeport, Allentown, Albany, Worcester, Portland ME, the percentage rises to 24.  With Latvians inhabiting numerous other places in the Boston-Washington megalopolis, it is safe to conclude that over a quarter of the nation’s Latvians live in this area.  The Chicago region is a clear second (totaling 4,926).  When Milwaukee (1,359), Racine WI (143), Rockford (202) and perhaps Grand Rapids (1,137) and Kalamazoo (571) in nearby Michigan are added the greater Chicago area has at least 8,500 Latvians and it may even approach 10,000 as other places are added. 
 
On the West Coast, the greater Los Angeles area, combined with Riverside and Santa Barbara has about 4,300 Latvians similar to the Washington-Baltimore (4,250) complex. Thus, they are effectively tied after New York and Chicago, as the third major concentrations of Latvians. The Latvian populations of both regions would increase if we combined LA and San Diego (1,048), or DC and Philadelphia (2,723), since each of the two cities is within occasional commuting distance to Los Angeles and Washington/Baltimore respectively .  In this context, the Bay Area deserves a mention with San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Vallejo, which together account for more than 3,500 Latvians. As we expand the concept of a region, we can include the Detroit (1895)--Cleveland (1244) corridor and then the Seattle (1895)--Portland OR (919) axis. Conversely, there are noteworthy metro areas that tend to stand alone: Minneapolis (2,646), Denver (1,352), Atlanta (1,202), Indianapolis (812) and Phoenix (778). 
 
Lastly, among the five largest US metropolitan areas, two do not have notable concentrations of Latvians. With over seven million people, the Dallas metro area is the fourth largest in the nation (813 Latvians) and Houston is the fifth largest U.S. metro area (1,015 Latvians).  Together with Austin, El Paso and San Antonio, the five largest Texas metro areas collectively account for approximately 2,400 Latvians, roughly the same as Metro Minneapolis.
 
LATVIANS PER POPULATION. Considering the number of Latvians as a proportion of the metropolitan area, the densest populations are: Kingston NY (191 Latvians per 100,000 in the metro area), Kalamazoo (172), Grand Rapids (112), Boulder CO (104), and Ann Arbor MI (97). Grand Rapids is the only one with a population over one million, and Kingston is the smallest of the five. Two smaller places with significant Latvian concentrations are California MD (226) and Vineland NJ (139). Other high ratios among large metros include: Milwaukee (86), Minneapolis (77), Boston (62), and Cleveland (60). A chance encounter with a Latvian would be low in St. Louis (11), Charlotte (12) and Dallas (12).
 
Lastly, although Lithuanians outnumber Latvians in the US by 8:1, among the large metro areas, Minneapolis has the smallest ratio where there are only 50% more Lithuanians. The largest place with more Latvians (230) than Lithuanians (166) is Lincoln, Nebraska.  Should a dispute arise over the veracity of these two statistics there is an Estonian Honorary Consul in Lincoln that would be happy to mediate.   
 
Siim Sööt and Dace Ķezbers
 
Professor Siim Soot joined the University of Illinois at Chicago faculty in 1970 to teach computer mapping (GIS) and data analysis. Before retirement he served as principal or co-principal investigator on over 50 research grants (over $6 million in funding). Currently he is an Honorary Vice Consul for Estonia.
Dace Kezbers, MA Linguistics and Literature, is Vice President of the Chicago Latvian Association and President of the Latvian Folk Art Museum in Chicago.
 
Number of Latvians by Metropolitan Area
 
 

Metro area

Latvians

 

USA TOTAL

85307

1

New York

9031

2

Chicago

4926

3

Los Angeles

3660

4

Boston

2876

5

Washington

2825

6

Philadelphia

2723

7

Minneapolis

2646

8

San Francisco

2544

9

Seattle

1895

10

Detroit

1475

11

Baltimore

1429

12

Miami

1362

13

Milwaukee

1359

14

Denver

1352

15

Cleveland

1244

16

Atlanta

1202

17

Grand Rapids

1137

18

San Diego

1048

19

Houston

1015

20

Portland

919

21

Tampa

875

22

Indianapolis

827

23

Dallas

813

24

Hartford

795

25

Phoenix

778

26

San Jose

612

27

Cincinnati

572

28

Sacramento

571

29

Kalamazoo

571

30

Columbus

526

31

Providence

526

32

Orlando

510