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Latino population leveling off in U.S.

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WASHINGTON — For years, America’s growing and mobile Latino population helped transform cities such as Atlanta and Las Vegas as well as many smaller communities. But the deep recession slowed this great dispersion, a new analysis shows, raising economic and political implications.

Between 2000 and 2010, the nation’s Latino population jumped 43 percent to 50.5 million, growing especially fast throughout the South and in smaller metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast.

But with the economic downturn that began in 2007, the meltdown of the housing market and a slowdown of new foreign arrivals, many of these same communities have seen Latino growth rates flatten out.

Of 107 metro areas where the number of Latinos doubled between 2000 and 2010, almost all showed a slowdown in population growth by the end of the decade, according to William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed recently updated figures from the Census Bureau.

It’s kind of stopped on a dime,” said Frey, author of the new report released Tuesday. “The big turndown in growth is pervasive.”

He pointed to such cities as Florida’s Palm Coast, a community of about 100,000 whose Latino population surged 19 percent annually for three years in the middle of the last decade. It rose by just 1.9 percent in 2010. The Latino growth rate in St. George, Utah, a community of about 73,000, fell from more than 15 percent in both 2005 and 2006 to 3.3 percent in 2010. And similar declines occurred in other cities, including Anderson, S.C., and Bend, Ore.