20 FAQs about Hispanics

Twenty of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Hispanics in the U.S.

1. Who makes up the U.S. Hispanic population?
Hispanics are an ethnically and racially diverse population. In 2009, the Latino population on the U.S. mainland was composed of Mexican Americans (65%), Puerto Ricans (9%), Cubans (3.5%), Salvadorans (3.2%), and Dominicans (2.7%). The remainder is composed of Central Americans, South Americans, or people of other Hispanic or Latino origins (15.4%).

2. What terms are used to describe the U.S. Hispanic population?
The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are used interchangeably by the U.S. Census Bureau to refer to persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American, Dominican, Spanish, and other Hispanic descent; they may be of any race. Some segments of the population also use the term “la raza,” which has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people” or, according to some scholars, “the Hispanic people of the New World.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions. Some people have mistranslated “la raza” to mean “the race,” implying that it is a term meant to exclude others. In fact, the full term coined by Vasconcelos, “la raza cósmica,” meaning “the cosmic people,” was developed to reflect not purity but the mixture inherent in the Hispanic people. This is an inclusive concept, meaning that Hispanics share with all other peoples of the world a common heritage and destiny.

3. How large is the Latino population?
Hispanics make up the largest ethnic minority in the country. In 2010, the estimated Hispanic population in the U.S. was 50.5 million, constituting 16% of the nation’s total population. This estimate does not include the 3.7 million residents of Puerto Rico.

4. Are most Latinos immigrants?
Most Latinos are native-born Americans, and nearly three in four Latinos (74%) are U.S. citizens. As of 2009, 62.7% of all Latinos are native-born Americans and 37.3% are foreign-born. Another 10.9% of Latinos are naturalized U.S. citizens. Hispanic children under age 18 are also more likely to have been born in the U.S., with 92% being native-born Americans and 93% being U.S. citizens.

5. What percentage of the foreign-born population comes from Latin America?
In 2009, slightly more than half (53.3%) of the foreign-born population residing in the United States came from Latin America, equaling 20.4 million people. Of those, 56.2% were born in Mexico. Other regions of birth that contribute large numbers of Hispanics are Central America (14.3%), the Caribbean (16.9%), and South America (12.7%).

6. What do Hispanic population projections show?
Since 2000, the Hispanic population has grown much faster than the U.S. population as a whole, a trend projected to continue in future decades. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43%, compared to a nationwide rate of growth of 9.7%. More than half of the growth in the total population of the United States between 2000 and 2010 was due to the increase in the Hispanic population. The most recent population projections indicate that by 2050, the Latino population will total roughly 132.8 million people, or 30% of the total population.
7. Where do most Latinos in the U.S. live?

Nearly half (47%) of the U.S. Hispanic population lived in California or Texas in 2010; California was home to over 14 million Hispanics and Texas was home to over 9.4 million. Sixteen states have at least half a million Hispanic residents; in order of greatest population, these states are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, Colorado, New Mexico, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia, and Massachusetts. Between 2000 and 2010, the Latino population more than doubled in many southeastern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

8. Do Spanish-speaking Latinos also speak English?
The majority of Hispanics who speak Spanish are also proficient in English. According to Census data, 35 million U.S. residents age five and older speak Spanish at home. A large majority (76%) of the Hispanic community speaks English, and 52% speak both English and Spanish; of the latter, 40% are fluent in both languages. Almost one-quarter (24%) speak only English in the home.

9. What is the age breakdown of the Latino population?
In 2009, the median age for Hispanics was 27.4 years, compared to 36.8 years for the total population. More than one-third of the Hispanic population was younger than 18, compared to approximately one-fourth of the total population. In addition, approximately 5.6% of the Hispanic population in 2009 was 65 and older, compared to 12.9% of the total population.

10. What is the educational status of Hispanics?
In 2010, 22% of the nation’s elementary and high school students and 11% of U.S. college students were Hispanic. Despite growing rates of enrollment in public schools, just over one-third (36%) of Latino children ages three and four are enrolled in preschool. In addition, only 55.5% of Hispanic students graduated from high school in four years. In 2010, 63% of Hispanics age 25 and older had at least a high school education and 14% had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

11. What percentage of Hispanics is in the labor force?
In 2010, 65% of Hispanic adults were working or actively searching for a job, which was slightly greater than the participation for the total U.S. population. While job loss was widespread during the recession from 2007 to 2009, Hispanics continue to face elevated unemployment levels compared to other workers. In March 2011, the unemployment rate for Hispanics was 11.3%, which was greater than that of the total U.S. population (8.8%).

12. What types of jobs do Latinos hold?
The Hispanic population is represented in a wide variety of occupations. For instance, in 2009 there were 57,000 Hispanic physicians and surgeons; 202,000 middle school teachers; 74,000 chief executives of businesses; 30,000 lawyers; and 284,000 fire fighters. In 2010, only about one in five (19%) Hispanics worked in management and professional occupations. However, Hispanics are disproportionately employed in service and support occupations. More than one in four (26%) work in service occupations; 21% in sales and office jobs; 16% in natural resources, construction, and maintenance jobs; and 17% in production, transportation, and material-moving occupations.

13. What is the economic status of Latinos?
Latino median household income was $38,039 in 2009, which was similar to its 2008 level. In comparison, the median household income for White families was $54,461, and among Black families it was $32,584. The Latino poverty rate increased from 23.2% in 2008 to 25.3% in 2009. The poverty rate among all Americans increased from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009. Twelve million Latinos were counted as poor in 2009, representing an increase of 1.4 million since 2008. In 2009, a four-person family was considered poor if its income fell below $21,954.

14. In what ways do Hispanic businesses contribute to the U.S. economy?
The number of Hispanic-owned businesses is rising dramatically. The number of Hispanic-owned firms (defined as those in which Hispanics of any race own 51% or more of the stock of equity of the business) grew by 44% from 2002 to 2007, compared to 15% growth in the number of firms owned by non-Hispanics. Approximately 2.3 million businesses—8% of all U.S. nonfarm businesses—are owned by Latinos. The revenue generated by these businesses was $345.2 billion in 2007, up 55.5% from 2002. In the United States, Hispanics own approximately 29,168 firms with receipts of $1 million or more. About 30% of Hispanic-owned firms operated in construction and other services sectors. Retail trade, construction, and wholesale trade accounted for 50.7% of Hispanic-owned business receipts.

15. What is the makeup of Hispanic households?
The majority (66%) of Hispanic households are married-couple families. Of those families, 41% have children under the age of 18. As of 2009, nearly one in four (23.2%) Hispanics were under 18.

16. Are Hispanics primarily homeowners or renters?

Hispanics have relatively low homeownership rates overall. In 2009, 50.5% of Hispanic households were owner-occupied and 49.5% were renter-occupied units. The nationwide rate for owner-occupied units was 68.4% and the rate for renter-occupied units was 31.6%.

17. What is the level of Hispanic civic engagement?
In 2008, 9.7 million Latinos voted in the presidential election, an increase of two million from the 2004 presidential election, representing an increase of 47%. More than 6.6 million Latinos voted in the 2010 election—a record for a midterm election.

18. What percentage of Hispanics lack health insurance?
Latinos are more likely to be uninsured than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. In 2009, nearly one-third (32.4%) of all Hispanics were uninsured for the full year, representing nearly 16 million people. Rates of uninsurance are lower among Latino children (16.8%) and seniors (7.2%), but more than two-fifths (43.9%) of Latino working-age adults have no form of health coverage.

19. What is the level of Hispanic participation in the U.S. military?
Latinos have served with distinction in the U.S. military for generations. Forty-three Latinos have won our nation’s highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. As of 2007, 1.1 million Hispanics were veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Approximately 16% of newly enlisted, active duty members of all branches of the military are Hispanic.

20. Do U.S. Hispanic data include residents of Puerto Rico?
Most data and other statistics reported on the U.S. Hispanic population do not include residents of Puerto Rico. However, the available data show that socioeconomic trends among Puerto Ricans on the island are somewhat similar to those of Latinos on the U.S. mainland. In 2010, Puerto Rico’s population was estimated to be 3.7 million. Data from the 2009 American Community Survey show that more than two-thirds (67.3%) of Puerto Ricans age 25 and older have a high school diploma and more than one-fifth (21.3%) have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Poverty rates in Puerto Rico are substantially higher than the rates for both mainland Latinos and the U.S. in general; nearly one-half (45.2%) of the island’s Latino population lived below the poverty line in 2009. Finally, as of 2009, the unemployment rate on the island was 13.4%.

Sources by Question

1. NCLR calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2005–2009 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Tables B03001, http://factfinder.census.gov (accessed April 25, 2011).
2. José Vasconcelos, The Cosmic Race/La raza cósmica (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).
3. Karen R. Humes, Nicholas A. Jones, and Roberto R. Ramirez, Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010. U.S. Census Bureau. Washington, DC, 2011, http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf (accessed April 12, 2011).
4. U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2009 American Community Survey, Table B05003I, http://factfinder.census.gov (accessed February 23, 2011); U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey (CPS) Table Creator,” 2009 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstc/cps_table_creator.html (accessed April 2011).
5. Pew Hispanic Center, Statistical Portrait of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States, 2009 (Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2011), Table 3.
6. Karen R. Humes, Nicholas A. Jones, and Roberto R. Ramirez, Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010; and U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features: Hispanic Heritage Month 2010, Sept. 15-Oct. 15,” news release, http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb10-ff17.html (accessed April 12, 2011).
7. NCLR calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2000 and 2010 Decennial Census, http://factfinder2.census.gov (accessed March 2010).
8. U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features”; and NCLR calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” 2009 American Community Survey, http://factfinder.census.gov (accessed March 2010).
9. U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features”; Pew Hispanic Center, Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States, 2009 (Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2011), Table 1 and Table 8; and Administration on Aging, “A Profile of Older Americans: 2010,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.aoa.gov/aoaroot/aging_statistics/Profile/2010/3.aspx (accessed April 12, 2011).
10. National Center for Education Statistics, The Early Childhood Program Participation Survey of the 1995, 2001, and 2005 National Household Education Surveys Program (ECPP-NHES:1995, 2001, and 2005), and the Parent Survey of 1999 NHES (Parent-NHES:1999). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC, 2010; National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2000-2010. Washington, DC, 2010; and National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2008. U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC, 2009, Table 226; U.S. Census Bureau, “Educational Attainment in the United States: 2010 - Detailed Tables,” http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/education/data/cps/2010/tables.html (accessed April 12, 2011), Table 1.
11. U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey,” 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, http://www.census.gov/cps (accessed April 2011); and Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation Summary,” news release, April 1, 2011.
12. U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2011. Washington, DC, 2010, Table 615; U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features.”
13. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. U.S. Census Bureau. Washington, DC, 2009, http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p60-238.pdf (accessed September 2010); and U.S. Census Bureau, “Historical Poverty Tables - People,” Current Population Survey, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/historical/people.html (accessed September 2010), Table 3.
14. U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features”; and U.S. Census Bureau, “Survey of Business Owners - Hispanic Owned Firms: 2007,” http://www.census.gov/econ/sbo/get07sof.html?11 (accessed April 2011).
15. U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features”; and Pew Hispanic Center, Statistical Portrait of Hispanics, Table 8.
16. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau, “2009 American Housing Survey.” Washington, DC, 2011, Table 2-1.
17. Mark Hugo Lopez, The Latino Electorate in 2010: More Voters, More Non-Voters (Washington DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2011), http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/141.pdf (accessed April 2011); and NCLR calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey (CPS) Table Creator,” 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstc/cps_table_creator.html (accessed April 2011).
18. NCLR calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey (CPS) Table Creator,” 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
19. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness, Population Representation in the Military Service Fiscal Year 2009. U.S. Department of Defense. Washington, DC, 2011. http://prhome.defense.gov/MPP/ACCESSION%20POLICY/PopRep2009/appendixb/appendixb.pdf (accessed March 2011), Appendix B; Sean Bowlin, “Team Randolph Celebrates ‘Hispanic Heritage Month,’” Randolph Air Force Base, September 26, 2008, http://www.randolph.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123116383 (accessed April 12, 2011); U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features; and Fred W. Baker III, “Servicemembers Receive ‘Outstanding Americans by Choice’ Award,” American Forces Press Service, http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47576 (accessed April 12, 2011).
20. U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder,” American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates, Table S0201-PR, http://factfinder.census.gov (accessed April 12, 2011).


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