SIOUX FALLS -- South Dakota's black population more than doubled in size over the past decade, the second-fastest growth in the nation.

U.S. Census data show that from 2000 to 2010, the number of black residents in South Dakota rose from 4,685 to 10,207, the Argus Leader reported. The 113 percent increase was second to a 132 percent rise in Maine.

Part of the increase in South Dakota might be due to an influx of African immigrants and refugees, said South Dakota State University rural sociologist Mike McCurry.

"I suspect that while we get some American-born, I think we are probably getting more international-born residents," he said.

Two-thirds of South Dakota's black residents live in Sioux Falls, the state's largest city. Chris Lomatayo, a native of Sudan who came to South Dakota in 2005 as a refugee with the help of Lutheran Social Services, is among them.

Lomatayo recently completed a degree in chemical engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City before moving to Sioux Falls. He said he agrees that much of the growth in the state's black population can be attributed to immigrants from Africa.

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"We have a huge population here of Sudanese, Ethiopians, Somalis, Liberians," he said.

Christy Nicolaisen, director of the Sioux Falls Multi-Cultural Center, said what attracts African immigrants to Sioux Falls are the same things that attract other people who are relocating: family, friends, jobs and low crime.

Black residents still make up less than 2 percent of South Dakota's population, putting the state in the bottom 10 in terms of percentage. Mississippi is the highest, with 37 percent of residents identifying themselves as black.

 

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