The Growth of Hispanics in the United States

The Growth of Hispanics in the United States


A new report from Child Trends, Hispanic Institute, America’s Hispanic Children: Gaining Ground, Looking Forward. Source:

The United States is seeing an unprecedented change in the makeup of its population—and, particularly, its children. Reflecting trends that are truly global, the people of the United States are more diverse—in national origins, color, and language background—than ever before in our history. Hispanics comprise the single largest share of this new diversity, and Hispanic children lead the way. The percentage of U.S. children who are Hispanic is growing rapidly

Hispanics are nearly one in four of U.S. children —17.5 million, as of 2013. The percentage of the child population that is Hispanic has more than doubled over the last three decades. By 2050, the share of children who are Hispanic is projected to pull even with the proportion who are white—each accounting for about one-third of the total child population. Nearly all Latino children—over 90 percent—were born here in the United States. In fact, much of the recent growth in the Latino population has been a result of births to families already living here, rather than immigration.

However, for many Hispanic families, immigration is an important feature of their experience. While the great majority of Latino children are U.S. citizens, many have family members who immigrated to the United States. This includes those who are legal permanent residents, naturalized citizens, or lack legal status. As of 2013, more than half of Latino children have at least one parent who was born outside the United States.

Among U.S. Hispanic children, seven in ten have Mexican heritage. The next-largest group is those whose heritage is Puerto Rican, followed by Salvadoran, Dominican, Cuban, other countries in Central America, and South America. Children from Central America typically come from rural areas, and their families have often fled violence and poverty. Cubans and South Americans, on average, are among the economically better-off. Dominicans and Mexicans—in spite of their longstanding ties to this country—experience the most residential segregation, while all Hispanic groups, excepting South Americans, disproportionately live in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The diversity of Latino children varies by region. While in most regions of the U.S. the majority of Latino children have Mexican heritage, in the Northeast, children from Central and South America predominate, followed by Puerto Ricans, with Mexicans in a distant third place. The South holds not only the largest share of Cuban children, but also the second-largest share of Puerto Rican children.

The extent to which Latinos tend to live in neighborhoods with other Latinos varies, but more than half do not live in predominantly Latino communities. Hispanic children are part of every state’s future. In New Mexico and California, they are already a majority of children. Some regions—the Southwestern states, California, Texas, Florida, and the metropolitan areas of the Northeastern states—have long histories of Hispanic settlement. But other regions have seen more recent and rapid change: among them, several states in the Midwest (Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota) and South (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina). And places where Hispanics are traditionally concentrated are changing, too: in New York City, Puerto Ricans have lost nearly 40 percent of their share of the total Hispanic population (from 50 percent in 1990, to 31 percent in 2010), and Mexicans have more than tripled theirs (from four to 15 percent). In Miami, the share of Hispanics who are Cuban has fallen by 11 percent (from 62 to 55 percent), while South Americans have increased their share by one-third (from 12 to 18 percent).

At the same time, many Hispanic families struggle to get ahead. The majority of Hispanic children (62 percent) live in low-income families—conventionally defined as those with incomes less than twice the federal poverty level, where many experts believe families can just meet basic needs. Roughly one in three Hispanic children lives in poverty. And one in eight lives in deep poverty (family income less than half the poverty line). The disparity between Hispanic children and white children in economic well-being is greatest when it comes to those in married-parent families: just one in nine white children living with married parents is in poverty, whereas for Hispanic children it is more than one in five. Poverty is also higher among Hispanic children who have at least one foreign-born parent, compared with those who have two U.S.-born parents

Children who experience poverty are at a higher risk for many negative outcomes: poor health, lower school performance, delinquent behavior, unemployment, and dependence on public assistance. Prolonged economic hardship acts as a form of chronic stress, jeopardizing children’s brain development and contributing to their susceptibility to disease. Many Latino children live in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty. Over a third of all Latino children live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, Where the preponderance of low educational attainment among adults, lower-quality housing, lower-quality schools, and crime all constrain their opportunities. A majority (52 percent) of Latino children live in neighborhoods that, according to their parents, are “always” safe, while 23 percent live in neighborhoods parents consider “never” safe.

Many Hispanic children live in crowded housing. One in four Hispanic children shares a bedroom with three or more family members—a proportion five times higher than among non-Hispanic white children. Hispanic children with at least one foreign-born parent, and children from Mexican or Central American families, are much more likely to experience crowded housing.*Defined as more than two household members per bedroom. If no bedrooms, more than one household member per room. **Includes single-parent households.

More than two-thirds of Latino children have at least one parent who works full-time, all year (and one in six has two parents working full-time). Latino youth also make significant contributions to their families’ economic security. One in ten Latino high enrolled in college. Of those not enrolled in school, six in ten are working. On the other hand, many Hispanic youth are not in the labor force. The labor market prospects for all young people (youth and young adults) have taken a hit in recent years. In 2011, among Hispanic teens (ages 16 to 19), more than half, and, among young adults (20 to 24), nearly a third were part of the “under-utilized” labor force (which includes those who had given up looking for work, and those having to suffice with part-time work, as well as those who were unemployed).Hispanic young men (ages 16 to 19) have more work experience than their peers, which improves their employment prospects overall, but this group has been less successful in gaining full-time jobs.

Of particular concern are youth who are neither employed nor enrolled in school. While there are multiple path ways to success, the consequences of unemployment, under-employment, or not acquiring post-secondary education can be damaging and enduring. Youth neither enrolled in school nor working are less likely to achieve economic self-sufficiency, and are at risk for multiple additional poor outcomes. As of 2012, one in ten Hispanic 16- to 19-year-olds was in this category.

Society suffers when prosperity is not widely shared. The logic of the new demographics is that, when the nation fails to nurture Latino children, it fails to nurture one-quarter of the workforce of the next generation—the proportion of the workforce in 2050 that is projected to be Latino. For most Latinos, there are few things that are more important than family. Eight in ten U.S. adults, according to a 2012 survey, agree that immigrants from Latin American countries have “strong family values.” And among Latinos themselves, more than 90 percent of adults consider “being a good parent” to be “very important.” Two-thirds of Latino teens say their parents praise them for good behavior nearly every day—a higher percentage than either white or black teens report.

Most Hispanic children live with both parents. Nearly six in ten Hispanic children (58 percent) live with two married parents. One in ten lives with two cohabiting adults, at least one of which is a biological or adoptive parent. Around one in four lives with their mother only, and small percentages live with their father only, or with neither of their parents (less than five percent in each case). One important opportunity to develop strong parent-child relationships and family connectedness is around family meals. Like other forms of parental involvement, frequent family meals are associated with positive behavioral outcomes for both children and teens, regardless of ethnicity. Eating with parents can also have a positive influence on the nutrition and eating habits of adolescents. Latino children are more likely than their white or black peers to eat a meal with family members six or seven days in a week.

Latino children are also more likely than either black or white children to share a family meal that is home-cooked.

Promoting early literacy and parental involvement. Latino parents of young children (ages three to five) read, tell stories, sing, work on arts and crafts, and teach letters and numbers, with them on a regular basis. However, research finds that, as a group, Latinos are less likely than white parents to read daily to young children: a little more than a third of Latino children have parents who do so, compared with two-thirds of white children. Thus, some parents are missing an opportunity to promote early literacy skills that can help their children get a strong start in school.

Much of the report contradicts what we are being told in the media.