The number of Hispanics in the U.S. is growing rapidly, especially in the South, and the rising numbers could increase their political influence.
According to new census data released Thursday, nine of the Top 10 states with the highest growth rates are in the South.
South Carolina tops the list with an 8.7 percent increase over a year's time as of July 1. An analysis by the Brookings Institution shows the state's Hispanic population was nearly 169,000 in July -- a 76 percent increase from July 2000.
Tennessee saw an 8.1 percent growth rate, while North Carolina's
growth was 7.8 percent.
Nationally, the number of Hispanics rose by 1.4 million to 45.5 million. Hispanics now account for 15 percent of the U.S.
Some Hispanic advocacy groups predict about 10 million Hispanics will vote this year.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)