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10 Facts for National Hispanic Heritage Month

10 Facts for National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Jens Manuel Krogstad


National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on Sept. 15thcelebrates American Hispanics, their culture, history and traditions. Started in 1968 by Congress as Hispanic Heritage Week, the celebration was expanded to a month in 1988. The celebration begins in the middle rather than the start of September because it coincides with national independence days in several Latin American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate theirs on September 15, followed by Mexico on September 16, Chile on September 18 and Belize on Sept 21.


Here are some key facts about the nation’s Hispanic population by age, geography and origin:

1.    The U.S. Hispanic population now stands at 58.9 million, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority. Hispanics are also the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group after Asians. Today Hispanics make up 18 percent of the U.S. population, up from 5% in 1970.


2.    Nationwide, a record 27.3 million Latinos are eligible to vote in 2018.


3.    People of Mexican origin account for about two-thirds (35.3 million) of the nation’s Hispanics. Those of Puerto Rican origin are the next largest group, at 5.3 million, and their numbers have been growing due to an historic increase in migration from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland. (Puerto Ricans are American citizens and about  3.5 million live on the island.) There are five other Hispanic origin groups with U.S. populations of more than 1 million people each: Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians.


4.    As the population of U.S.-born Hispanics booms and the arrival of new immigrants slows, the share of Hispanics who are immigrants – as opposed to those who are born here – is on the decline across all origin groups. From 2007 to 2014, the number of Hispanic immigrants increased slightly, from 18 million to 19.3 million. But they constituted a smaller overall share of the Hispanic population – decreasing from 40 percent to 35 percent over the same time period.  


The share of foreign-born population among Hispanics also varies by origin group. For example, just one-third (33%) of Mexican-origin Hispanics are foreign-born. That’s far lower than among the other major groups: – Cuban (57% foreign-born), Salvadoran (59%), Dominican (54%), Guatemalan (63%) and Colombian (64% foreign-born).


5.    Diversity among Hispanic origin groups varies between major metropolitan areas. Mexicans make up 79 percent of Hispanics in the Los Angeles metro area. But the New York City area is less dominated by any single group, with Puerto Ricans (27%) and Dominicans (21%) being the largest. The same is true in the Washington, D.C., metro area, where Salvadorans (33%) are most numerous, and in the Miami area, where Cubans (43%) are the largest group. In these areas, the largest share of Hispanics by origin does not constitute a majority of the Hispanic population.


6.    Hispanics are the youngest of the major racial and ethnic groups counted in the United States Census.  The median age of the Hispanic population is 28 -- nearly a full decade younger than that of the United States (37 years). Among Hispanics, there is also a significant difference between the median age of those born in the United States (19 years) and those who are foreign-born (41 years). In 2014, about a quarter of Hispanics (14.6 million), were Millennials (ages 18 to 33).


7    Millennials made up almost half (44%) of the Hispanic electorate in 2016. They will likely continue to drive growth of the Hispanic electorate, given that the median age of U.S.-born Hispanics is only 19, and in any given year, more than 800,000 Hispanics turn 18 years old.


8.    Hispanics make up the largest group of immigrants in most states. In 33 of those states, Mexico is the largest sending source of newcomers. In some states, however, other Hispanic groups predominate. For example, El Salvador is the top country of birth among immigrants in Virginia and Maryland; in New York and Rhode Island, the largest share of Hispanic immigrants is from the Dominican Republic, while Cuba is the leading source of Hispanic immigrants in Florida.


9.    A majority of Hispanic adults (55%) say they are Catholic, while 16 percent are evangelical Protestants and 5 percent are mainline Protestants. The share who say they are Catholic has declined from 67 percent in 2010. Mexicans and Dominicans are more likely than other Hispanic origin groups to say they are Catholic. Meanwhile, Salvadorans are more likely than Mexicans, Cubans and Dominicans to describe themselves as evangelical Protestants.


10    The proportion of Hispanics in the United States who speak English proficiently is growing. In 2013, more than two-thirds of Hispanics aged 5 years and older spoke English proficiently, up from 59 percent just a decade earlier. The burgeoning population of U.S.-born Hispanics is the primary driver of this growth. And while speaking Spanish remains an important part of Hispanic culture, 71 percent of Hispanic adults say it is not necessary to speak Spanish in order to be considered Latino.


This article appears courtesy of the Pew Research Center. Jens Manuel Krogstad is a senior writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at the Center.


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