Hispanics now account for more than 15% of the U.S.
population, and their surge is largely the result of births among people
already in the country, according to new Census Bureau data.
"The Hispanic population has taken on a momentum of its own,"
said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New
Hampshire's Carsey Institute. "If you close the borders tomorrow, there is
still going to be a large Hispanic increase."
Hispanics increasingly are venturing beyond their
traditional centers of population and moving to the Southeast and the
Midwest, in search of better opportunities and a lower cost of living.
Key to Survival
The new numbers help show why presidential candidates have
courted Hispanics aggressively in this campaign and run advertisements in
Spanish. Hillary Clinton's popularity among Hispanic voters helped her win
primaries in Texas and California. Both victories were key to her survival
in the race for the Democratic nomination.
"Latinos will become increasingly important because of
their sheer numbers," said Daranee Petsod of Grantmakers Concerned with
Immigrants and Refugees, an advocacy group.
• A Bigger Minority: The Census Bureau
says Hispanics now account for more than 15% of the U.S. population.
• Home-Grown: The bulk of the increase
is coming from births, not immigration, an indication that stricter
border controls would do little to stem population increases.
• Coveted Demographic: With their
widening geographic reach and growing numbers, Hispanics have emerged
as an enticing target for marketers and politicians.
* * *
ON THE UPSWING
Growth in spending by Hispanics is likely to outstrip that
of the general population in coming years. Hispanics control more disposable
income than any other minority group. The figure stands at $860 billion a
year and is expected to hit $1.3 trillion by 2012, according to Jeffrey
Humphreys, who monitors Hispanic demographic and economic trends at the
University of Georgia's Selig Center.
In recent years, consumer-goods companies such as Procter &
Gamble and other businesses have invested significantly more advertising
dollars to reach Hispanics, both in Spanish and English.
Between 2000 and 2007, 16 states -- among them West
Virginia, Illinois and New Jersey -- saw their white population decline,
according to the new Census data. Over the same period, whites accounted for
a majority of population growth in only 11 states.
Younger on Average
About two-thirds of Americans are non-Hispanic white, while
about 12% are non-Hispanic black, according to the Census Bureau.
Hispanic families tend to have more children. The
population is also younger on average, so the large number of births isn't
balanced out by deaths. Between July 2000 and 2007, there were 8.4 Hispanic
births for every death. African-Americans had 2.4 births per death. The
ratio for whites was 1.6.
As Americans age and the baby boom generation retires,
Hispanics may help buttress the economy and the Social Security system. The
average white woman in the U.S. has 1.8 children, which is under the
replacement rate of 2.1 necessary to maintain a stable population. Hispanic
women, meanwhile, give birth on average to 2.8 children.
According to the Pew Research Center, whites are projected
to make up only 45% of the working-age population in 2050, down from 68% in
2005. The center projects that the share of Hispanics in the working-age
population will rise to 31% from 14%. The ratio of senior citizens to
working-age people age 25 to 64 will grow to 411 seniors per 1,000 working-age
people in 2030 from 250 per 1,000 in 2010, according to Dowell Myers, a
demographer at the University of Southern California.
"If you are pro-economic growth, you must be pro-immigration
and pro-Hispanic, because we don't have the workers," says Donald Terry, a
senior official at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.
Many immigrants are bypassing traditional gateway states in
the Southwest, while many U.S.-born Hispanics have left states like
California. "They are finding it more difficult to find work at the cost of
living that's needed in some of the initial gateways" like California and
Arizona, says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a
Washington think tank. There are shifts within the gateway states, as well.
Settling in Small Towns
Hispanics have also settled in small towns, to take jobs in
such industries as meatpacking, textiles and construction. The children of
Latin American immigrants are helping offset a decline or slower growth in
the school-age population in states such as Georgia and Iowa. In Minnesota,
the Hispanic population grew 166% during the 1990s, almost three times the
rate for the country overall.
Many of these Hispanic communities are now growing swiftly
even without taking immigration into account. "The base population of
Hispanics already here is so large that it is virtually impossible for
immigration to play as important a role in population growth as it has
historically," said Mr. Humphreys of the University of Georgia.
The spreading out of Hispanic workers is causing changes in
communities across the country, and some stresses. Communities must address
language difficulties and educational needs of Hispanic students, who have
historically scored lower on standardized tests than other students and
recorded higher dropout rates.
Hispanics have been flocking to Hilton Head Island, S.C.,
since the mid-1990s in search of jobs. In 2006, officials there decided to
offer bonuses of $150 a month to town employees who speak Spanish. "Day-to-day
realities dictated that we improve our communication with the Hispanic
population," said Hilton Head's human resources director, Nancy Gasen.
The town also has offered Spanish classes to public-safety
officials, including firefighters and emergency dispatchers, as well as
other employees who deal with Spanish speakers.
In Crete, Neb., the public-school system now offers about
14 adult English classes that meet year-round, with 158 students and a
waiting list of around 50. When the adult English classes started in 1990,
the program had five students that were taught by volunteers.
Write to Conor Dougherty at
and Miriam Jordan at