Since the 1970 census the US government has been dividing the US population into Hispanic and non-Hispanic groupings. On the 2010 census they used Latino as an alternative term. Among the general public Latino has now become the most frequently used term. As a result of a higher birth rate than the general population and to a lesser extent of immigration they are a growing group while the white/European population is approaching a point of stagnation.
Latino is used as something of an umbrella concept that is supposed to represent ethnicity. In theory it could have a variety of different meanings. However, the census defines it in terms of points of origin or ancestry in specific locations in the Western Hemisphere. In view of the wide range of discussions about the potential impact of this demographic shift, I got curious about taking a closer look at the people who are included under this umbrella.
The 2010 census counted 50.5 M people as being of Hispanic origin. This is how those people broke down in terms of national origin.
So what to make of this. Is this a homogeneous group of people who can be expected to share a cohesive set of political, social and economic interests?
It should be fairly easy to cut the Cubans out of the heard. A majority of them were or are descended from people who immigrated to the US is response the the Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro. They were generally in a middle class or higher status in Cuba. They were given special provisions for entry under US law. They have been an influence in keeping relations between the US and Cuba blocked for over 50 years. The two Republican senators of Cuban ancestry Cruz and Rubio fit the picture of the broader community. Their efforts to speak on behalf of the larger group of American Latinos aren't especially plausible.
Estimated trends since 2010 indicate that Salvadorians have or are likely to pass Cubans as being the third largest Latino group. From there down the list the numbers get smaller and smaller. Clearly Mexicans make up the bulk of the Latino population.
Puerto Ricans stand out from the rest of the Latino population in terms of their rather peculiar legal position. Puerto Rica is an unincorporated territory of the US. Puerto Ricans have US citizenship but they can only fully exercise all of the rights and functions by establishing residence on the US mainland. The issue of full statehood for the island is perennially up in the air. The people are able to move back and forth from the island to the mainland without going through immigration procedures. Only those Puerto Ricans resident on the mainland are included in the US census. In addition to the 4.5 M listed above there are some 3M resident on the island. The island population is declining slightly. Most of the increase in the mainland population is coming from children born in the US with additional migration from the island playing a minor role.
Historically Puerto Ricans have been concentrated on the East Coast with the largest enclave being in New York City. Historically they have been the dominant Hispanic group there, however,
At the 2010 Census, there were 319,263 Mexican Americans living in New York City. In 2009, it was estimated that of the city's Hispanic population, 13.5% was of Mexican origin. Mexicans are the fastest growing group of Hispanic population. Some estimates suggest that Mexicans will surpass both Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in 2023 to become the city’s largest national Latino sub-group. As of 2011, the Mexican Consulate estimated about 500,000 Mexicans lived in New York City, of whom 35,000 spoke a Mexican indigenous language.Historically Mexicans have been concentrated in the southwest so until recently there has been very little overlap between the two groups.
This is a look at the change in the fastest growing national groups between the 2000 and 2010 census.
For Mexican Americans immigration with all of the legal complications and difficulties is an important issue. Current estimates are that about 2/3 of the US Mexican population are native born US citizens and 1/3 people who were born in Mexico. Pew Research estimated in 2011 that about half of the foreign born were here on undocumented status. That is about 18% of the total US population of Mexican origin.
Given the unending political debate about proposals for immigration reform and the obsessions of the US media one might get the impression that immigration is all that matters to Mexican Americans. Pew Research did a poll of Hispanic voters and found that immigration is not at the top of the list of their concerns.