The Hispanic population of the United States more than doubled between 1980 and 2000, increasing from 14.6 million to 35.3 million. The Pew Hispanic Center projects that the Hispanic population will reach 47.7 million by the end of this decade, and 60.4 million by 2020.
As the Latino population grows, its composition is undergoing a fundamental change. Births to Hispanic immigrants, rather than immigration itself, will be the key source of population growth in the near future. By 2020, second-generation Hispanics are projected to reach 21.7 million in number, representing 36% of the overall Hispanic population, up from 9.9 million in 2000, when they represented 28%. Latino immigrants will increase in number to 20.6 million from 14.2 million by 2020 but their share will diminish to 34%, from 40%. The remaining 18.2 million Hispanics are expected to be third- or higher-generation Hispanics — those who were born in this country and whose parents were born here as well.
Growth of the Hispanic population accounts for a disproportionate share of total population growth in the United States. Between 1980 and 2000, the increase of 20.7 million in the Hispanic population accounted for 38% of the nation’s total population growth. The white population increased by 14.3 million and accounted for 26% of the growth. Between 2000 and 2020 the Hispanic population is projected to grow by 25.1 million and the white population by 13.3 million. In other words, Hispanics should account for 46% and whites 24% of total population growth in the next two decades.
The rapid growth of the Hispanic population is partly a function of its youth. Compared with whites, a greater share of the Hispanic population is concentrated in childbearing years. Their relative youth is evident in age and gender distributions. The white age structure is relatively top heavy, with many older members at the top and fewer younger members at the base. In contrast, the Hispanic population has a broader base and narrows toward the top. This shape is characteristic of younger populations with high fertility levels.
Within the Hispanic population, the age and gender structures of first, second, and third and higher generations differ markedly. The Latino immigrant population is dominated by working-age adults and men: There are 116 male immigrants for every 100 female immigrants. In contrast, second-generation Hispanics are nearly equally divided between males and females, and the bulk of this generation is of school age. Half of second-generation Hispanics are currently 11 years old or younger. Half of third- and higher-generation Hispanics are 24 or younger, which gives this group an age structure similar to that of the overall Latino population.
Hispanics are relatively concentrated geographically. Nearly 80% live in California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico or Colorado. But as the Hispanic population grew between 1980 and 2000, it also dispersed somewhat. Tracking that movement requires examining both the speed and the size of growth in new areas. In addition to Florida, seven states — Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts — saw growth that was both fast (increases of more than 200%) and sizable (more than 200,000 additional Hispanics per state). States with established Hispanic populations, such as California, also saw their numbers grow substantially, but because they started with a large base, the rate of growth was slower. States with an emerging Hispanic population, such as Nebraska and Kansas, produced smaller absolute numbers (increases of fewer than 200,000 Hispanics between 1980 and 2000) but very high rates of growth (more than 200%).
Despite their geographic concentration, most Latinos live scattered through neighborhoods where they are a small share of the population. Some 20 million Hispanics — 57% of the total — lived in neighborhoods in which they made up less than half the population at the time of the 2000 census. These Latinos lived in census tracts where, on average, only 7% of residents were Hispanics. This pattern of dispersal even holds for Latino immigrants and for low-income Hispanics, although to a lesser degree.
The remainder of the Hispanic population in 2000 — 15 million — lived in neighborhoods where Latinos are a majority. These communities are large, and the Hispanic population that lives in such neighborhoods has been growing faster than the Hispanic population that lives dispersed among non-Hispanics. A comparison of data from the 1990 and 2000 census counts shows that as the size of the Hispanic population increased in big cities with already large Hispanic populations, such as New York and Los Angeles, these majority-Latino neighborhoods spread across the urban landscape. Although such neighborhoods where Latinos dominate can be highly visible and sometimes controversial, they are not the norm for the Latino population.
“As of 2000, 57% of all Hispanics were dispersed, while 43% were living in Latinomajority neighborhoods. By this measure, the Hispanic population is somewhat less concentrated than the African-American population.”
Thus, the recent growth of the Hispanic population has produced two countervailing trends in residential settlement: dispersal and concentration. The increase of the Hispanic population between 1990 and 2000 was almost equally shared between neighborhoods where Latinos are a majority of residents (6.5 million) and neighborhoods where they are a minority (6.9 million). As of 2000, 57% of all Hispanics were dispersed, while 43% were living in Latino-majority neighborhoods. By this measure, the Hispanic population is somewhat less concentrated than the African-American population. In 2000, some 48% of the black population lived in census tracts with a majority-black population. Predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods are also diverse in their own way, as they are home to a variety of Latinos — immigrant and native born, Spanish speakers and English speakers, the poor and the middle class.