News Column

Growing Hispanic Presence

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It's all in the numbers -- 50.5 million Hispanics, a 43 percent population increase in 10 years. One of every six people in the United States is Hispanic. Of the total Hispanic population, 17.2 million are younger than 18. One in four children in the country is Hispanic. Hispanics accounted for more than half the growth in this nation over the last decade.

The findings of the 2010 census confirm that Hispanics have become a major influence across the nation's economic, social and political fronts. The findings also confirm that a major demographic shift is under way, the same kind of shift other ethnic groups took in the late 19th century and through a good portion of the 20th century. In fact, some people feel it is more than a shift.

In an April 1 interview on NPR, Jorge Ramos, the co-anchor of the nightly newscast "Noticiero Univision," said, "It's truly a demographic revolution ... and it's already having enormous impact economically and politically."

Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), wrote in an April 22 Op- Ed piece for The Wall Street Journal, "Every issue that Americans care about -- whether education, health care, Social Security or the economy -- involves the Latino community."

Increasingly, this demographic revolution comes from a younger, more involved Hispanic population.

"We are tech savvy," Hernan Lopez, president of Fox International Channels, wrote in the March 14 issue of Advertising Age. "We spend more time on mobile devices than our non-Hispanic peers. We use social media as a means to communicate, express ourselves and create, and we spend more time online than non-Hispanics."

Key Ingredient to the Economy

A younger, savvier Hispanic population has much to offer the United States in terms of the economy.

Juan Solana, chief economist for HispanicBusiness magazine, sees in the increased Hispanic population "the potential for a future of economic growth and financial stability in the United States."

There are several major impacts Hispanics will have.

"A younger and educated labor force can contribute to mend the financial challenges that the U.S. economy will face in the coming decades," Mr. Solana said.

The Hispanic impact will not merely be on the production side, despite Hispanics becoming a growing presence in the U.S. workforce.

"Substantial potential growth lies in consumer markets due to the demographic and professional progress of Hispanics," Mr. Solana said. "Opportunities arise from seizing these emerging domestic markets, but threats come from ignoring them and allowing competitors to gain a stronghold in this segment of increasingly affluent consumers."

The Hispanic purchasing power was put at $1 trillion in 2010 and estimated by HispanTelligence, the research arm of HispanicBusiness magazine, to be $1.3 trillion by 2015.

But beyond the marketplace, Hispanics also will be a strong voice in other areas of the economy.

"The current debate about U.S. financial obligations as the baby-boom generation starts to retire would be more dramatic than they already are without this population growth fueled by Hispanics," Mr. Solana said.

Not only will Hispanics be a potent force in driving the material side of the economy, they will help shore up another segment that has shown a decrease over the years.

"In the decades to come," Mr. Solana said, "Hispanics will not only be emerging as a major producing and consuming force but also as a saving and investing force."

And because of Hispanics' outward migration in the United States, the benefits derived from their work, their entrepreneurship and their helping run the corporations of America will be more profound.

Population on the Go

The outward migration comes as younger Hispanics move out of the states where they have predominantly lived -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Texas. In 2000, 81 percent of U.S. Hispanics lived in those states. And while each of these states saw significant growth in their Hispanic population, they accounted for only 76 percent of the total Hispanic population in 2010. Two states alone, California and Texas, accounted for 50 percent of the Hispanic population in 2000. Today, they account for only 46.5 percent.

Of the nine states with the largest Hispanic population, Florida had the largest increase, 57.4 percent. The other eight states had less than 50 percent growth. Thirty-five states had a larger rate of Hispanic growth than the nine largest Hispanic states.

And where are Hispanics migrating to across the nation?

Everywhere. With one exception, the 10 states that had the largest Hispanic population growth are in the South -- South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina, Maryland, Mississippi and Delaware. South Dakota sneaked into the list as the ninth-fastest-growing state. The growth rate of Hispanics ranged from 96.4 percent in Delaware to 147.9 percent in South Carolina. And the nine Southern states alone now account for 5 percent of the entire Hispanic population.

Statewide Migration

But the migration is not just to other states but is occurring within states, as well, as Hispanics move from urban landscapes to the suburbs or to counties where the cost of living is less. In Florida, Texas and California, for example, many counties near major metropolitan areas saw the Hispanic population grow anywhere from 62.6 percent to 175.5 percent.

"The trend of more Hispanics moving to the suburban life ... is in line with a majority of the Hispanic population that is native-born, English-dominant, middle-class, entrepreneurial and integrated into the U.S. society," Mr. Solana said.

In California, two counties showed exceptional growth of more than 25 percent -- Kern with an increase of 26.9 percent and Riverside with an increase of 41.7 percent. Hispanic population growth in both counties was explosive. In Kern County, it jumped 62.6 percent, adding 248,612 people. Overall, Kern County only gained 177,986 people, which means without the Hispanics growth, the county would have lost population. Similarly, Riverside County's Hispanic population growth came in at 78.9 percent. Hispanics accounted for 67.6 percent of that county's growth.

In Florida, four counties around the one in which Jacksonville, the state's largest city, is located saw a growth rate of 175.5 percent, adding 178,470 people. That alone accounted for 6.7 percent of the state's growth in 10 years.

In Texas, the counties surrounding two of the state's largest cities -- Houston and Dallas -- and a 10-county corridor stretching northeast from San Antonio to beyond the state's capital in Austin saw growth of 25 percent or more.

Five counties near Houston, Texas' largest city, saw a combined Hispanic growth rate of 96.4 percent, which accounted for 36 percent of those counties' growth. The six counties surrounding Dallas, the state's third-largest city, had a combined Hispanic growth rate of 85.1 percent, which and made up 36.8 percent of those counties' growth.

And in the 10 counties that stretch northeast from San Antonio, Texas' second-largest city, the Hispanic population grew 64 percent and accounted for 41.7 percent of those counties' growth rate.

Looking Forward

The 2010 census showed Hispanics not only poised to have major influence throughout the nation, but to have increasing influence for decades to come.

Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, said in a March 24 "PBS News Hour" interview: "One of the things that is striking about this decade for Hispanics is that more population growth among Hispanics has come from native-born births as opposed to new immigration."

NCLR's Ms. Murguia put this into perspective in her Op-Ed piece: "One out of every four children in America is Latino, and 92 percent of those children are U.S. citizens."

"It looks like, if trends continue," Mr. Lopez said, "that we will continue to see native-born births play an important role, and an increasingly important role, in Hispanic population growth through the next few decades."

And native-born births mean the youthfulness of the Hispanic population will continue, providing a strong labor pool, a potent force in the economy, a continuing influence on culture and an increasingly more diverse United States.

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