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Dispersal and Concentration: Patterns of Latino Residential Settlement

IV. Majority-Latino versus Minority-Latino Neighborhoods

Although the dividing line between majority-Latino and minority-Latino neighborhoods in this analysis is a simple matter of whether half or more residents are Hispanics, these communities have very different characteristics. On average, 71 percent of the residents in Latino-majority census tracts were Hispanics in the 2000 census. Meanwhile, the minority-Latino tracts averaged a Latino population of only seven percent. Thus, Hispanics tended to live either in neighborhoods with a very high or a very low density of Latinos. Overall this population is both highly concentrated and highly dispersed.

As might be expected, a considerably greater share of the Hispanic population of majority-Latino neighborhoods is made up of immigrants (43% on average) compared to minority-Latino communities (27% foreign born on average). However, this does not mean that majority-Latino neighborhoods are necessarily immigrant enclaves. On average, 57 percent of the Hispanics living in majority-Latino neighborhoods are native born. Other evidence suggests that significant shares of these native-born Latinos are the U.S.-born children of immigrant parents.4 Not surprisingly, Spanish is widely spoken in majority-Latino communities but not to the exclusion of English by any means. Only a little more than a quarter (28%) of the residents of majority-Latino neighborhoods speaks just Spanish. Of the rest, 14 percent only speak English and 58 percent are bilingual in English and Spanish.

The Hispanic population of majority-Latino neighborhoods is more concentrated in the lower income brackets than in minority-Latino communities. That does not mean, however, that Latino-majority communities are populated primarily by lower-income households. While 42 percent of the Hispanic households in majority-Latino neighborhoods had incomes of $25,000 a year or less, 33 percent had incomes of $50,000 or more.

In summary then, the Hispanic population in Latino-majority communities is considerably diverse in terms of nativity, language and income. While low-income, Spanish-speaking, foreign-born Latinos represent a large share of the population in these neighborhoods, they are by no means the dominant type.

More Latinos lived in minority-Latino neighborhoods than in majority-Latino neighborhoods in 2000. Over half of all Latinos, 57 percent, lived in minority-Latino neighborhoods, while the remaining 43 percent lived in majority-Latino neighborhoods.

Between 1990 and 2000 the Hispanic population counted by the census increased by more than 13 million, and this rapid growth was accompanied by a trend towards greater concentration in Latino neighborhoods. In 1990, 61 percent of all Hispanics lived in minority-Latino neighborhoods while 39 percent lived in neighborhoods where Latino constituted the majority.

Between the two census counts, 6.5 million Hispanics were added to majority- Latino neighborhoods and slightly more, 6.9 million, were added to minority-Latino neighborhoods. However, because the Hispanic population in majority-Latino neighborhoods started out smaller, the rate of growth was faster there.

Clustering into ethnic enclaves is commonly thought of as an immigrant trait, and indeed a greater share of the Hispanic foreign-born population (48%) lives in majority- Latino neighborhoods than the native-born (39%). Nonetheless, most Hispanics of both nativity groups lives in minority-Latino neighborhoods. Indeed, while the native-born dominate the Hispanic population in minority-Latino neighborhoods (63% vs. 37%), the Hispanic population of majority-Latino neighborhoods is more closely divided and includes sizeable shares of both native-born (55%) and foreign-born Hispanics (45%).

English monolingualism is a more powerful factor in the neighborhood distribution of the Latino population than nativity. Three-quarters of Latinos who speak only English live in minority-Latino neighborhoods, whereas fewer than half of Spanish monolingual Latinos residents live in such neighborhoods.

For Latinos, residential patterns correlate to income but only to a limited extent. As household incomes increase, the share of Latinos living in minority-Latino neighborhood increases as well. So, most middle and upper income Latinos live in minority-Latino communities. However, most Latinos in the lowest income bracket also live in neighborhoods where Latinos are a minority, and sizeable shares of those with higher incomes live in majority-Latino neighborhoods. Thus, the full range of incomes is represented in both kinds of communities. More than seventy percent of Latinos in the highest household income class (annual incomes $75,000 or more) live in minority- Latino neighborhoods. Moreover, about half (52%) of Latino households in the lowest income category (annual incomes of $25,000 a year or less) also live in communities where non-Hispanics are the dominant population. Conversely, densely Latino neighborhoods include sizeable shares of Latino middle and upper income households.

Not surprisingly given the income distributions described above, a majority of Hispanics living in poverty, both adults and children, reside in majority-Latino neighborhoods. But, it is a slim majority because this segment of the Hispanic population is also significantly dispersed. Both in terms of absolute numbers and proportion, nearly half of the Latino poverty population lives scattered through neighborhoods where Latinos are a distinct minority.

The correlation between income and residential patterns among African Americans is similar to that of Latinos with one exception: In 2000 larger shares of middle and upper income black households lived in neighborhoods where blacks are a majority than was the case with the distribution of Hispanics among Latino and non- Latino neighborhoods. Otherwise, as with Latinos, very large shares of the black low income (48%) and poverty population (46%) lived in neighborhoods where most residents are not of the same racial/ethnic category.

Overall, nearly half of the black population (48%) lived in census tracts where blacks are a majority of residents. That is a somewhat larger proportion of the population than is the case for Hispanics who lived in majority-Latino neighborhoods (43%).

  1. Suro, Roberto and Passel, Jeffrey S. The Rise of the Second Generation: Changing Patterns in Hispanic Population Growth. Pew Hispanic Center, 2003
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