Get to Know the Hispanics Around You Foreign Languages Department
Salem State University

Details about the Hispanic population


Hispanics by Origin: 2002 (in percent). Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Demographic Supplement to the March 2002 Current Population Survey. (Figure 1)
According to the 2000 Census, there were 35.3 million Hispanics in the US that year, more than one in eight people or 12.5% of the total (not counting Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico). Two thirds of these were of Mexican origin (66.9%), 14.3% Central and South American, 8.6% Puerto Rican, 3.7% Cuban, 2.2% Dominican.

In June 2003 the Census Bureau estimated that there were 38.8 million Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. (13.5% of the total U.S. population), having grown 3.5 million or 10% since April 2000. Hispanics had thus become the largest minority group in the U.S., surpassing African-Americans in size. Immigration has accounted for about half of this growth. Between 35 and 45% of foreign-born Hispanics, or about 5 million people, are thought to live in the U.S. without the proper authorization.

The Hispanic population is projected to comprise almost one fourth of the U.S. population by 2050 given the current rates of immigration and natural growth. By then the non-Hispanic White population will be barely half of the total (from a current 70%) given the growth of the Hispanic and Asian minorities. Asians will be almost 9% of the total by then from about 4% now and the African American and Native American populations will remain relatively stable as a percentage of the total.

Table: Percentage distribution of the resident U.S. population, by race/ethnicity: Selected years 1980 to 2000 and projections to 2050

Where do they come from and where are they in the US

Two out of every five Hispanics were born outside the U.S. (40.2% or 15 million). Slightly more than half of these (52.1%) entered the U.S. between 1990 and 2002. But Hispanic immigrants haven't been coming from different countries evenly in the past decade. The country of origin of foreign born populations in the U.S. between 1990 and 2000 tells us much about the source of the increase in Hispanics: Mexican born residents were 4.3 million in 1990 and 7.8 million in 2000 (an 80% increase); Dominican born were 348,000 in 1990 vs. 692,000 in 2000 (a 99% increase). Foreign-born Cubans, the other major Hispanic group, increased from 737,000 to 952,000. Salvadorians went from 465,000 to 765,000.

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Hispanics are more concentrated geographically than non-Hispanic Whites: in the West (44.2% of the total U.S. population) and the South (34.8%), rather than in the Northeast (13.3%) or the Midwest (7.7%), though there is variation by national origin, e.g. 58% of Puerto Rican in the U.S. were in the Northeast, 75.1% of Cubans were in the South and 54.6% of Mexicans were in the West. Also, Hispanics are more likely to live inside central cities of metropolitan areas: that is where almost half of all Hispanics live (as opposed to one fifth of all non-Hispanic Whites).

Table: Population by Region, and Hispanic Origin Type: March 2002

Table: Hispanic population in the U.S. by country of origin in Census 2000

Table: Population size and "racial" composition in U.S. and countries that are major sources of Hispanic immigrants to the U.S., as well as some of the other larger "Hispanic countries."

Reasons for growth

Besides immigration, larger reproductive rates also account for the growth of Hispanics. The Hispanic population is younger than other groups' populations. Thus, for instance, Hispanics are more likely to be under 18 than non-Hispanic Whites (approximately one third vs. one fifth). Also, the median age of the Hispanic population in 2000 was 25.9, whereas it was 35.3 for the U.S. population as a whole. About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. is Hispanic.

Hispanic families are larger on average that those of other groups. Thus, for instance, in 2002, 26.5 percent of family households in which a Hispanic person was the householder consisted of five or more people, as opposed to only 10.8 percent for non-Hispanic White family households.


Borrowed from
With regards to education, Hispanics over 25 were less likely to have graduated from high school than non-Hispanic Whites (57.0 percent and 88.7 percent, respectively). On average, 21% of Hispanics drop out of school: 14% of U.S.-born Latinos and 34% of foreign-born ones.

The proportion with a bachelor's degree or more was much lower for Hispanics (11.1%) than for non-Hispanic Whites (29.4%). However, educational attainment varies among Hispanics, with Mexicans having the least high school graduates for instance (50.6%) and bachelor's degree holders (7.6%).


Hispanics are more likely to be unemployed. In March 2002, 8.1% of Hispanics over 16 were unemployed, as opposed to 5.1% of non-Hispanic Whites. Hispanics are also more likely to work in service occupations (22.1% vs. 11.6%), though still less than 1/4 of the total (counter to the stereotype), and tend to earn less than non-Hispanic Whites. Furthermore, in 2002 21.4% of Hispanics were living in poverty, compared with 7.8% of non-Hispanic Whites. More impressively, Hispanic children represented 17.7% of all children in the United States but constituted 30.4% of all children in poverty.


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