Hispanic Americans are not only the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, they’re also one of the most complex. Individuals of any race—black, white, Native American—identify as Latino. Hispanics in the U.S. trace their roots to a variety of continents, speak a variety of languages and practice a variety of customs. As the Latino population grows, the American public’s knowledge about Hispanic Americans grows as well. In this effort, the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012 compiled statistics about Latinos in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month that shed light on everything from where Latinos are concentrated in the United States to how much the Latino population has grown to the strides Latinos have made in sectors such as business. Of course, Latinos face challenges as well. They remain underrepresented in higher education and suffer from high rates of poverty. As Latinos gain more resources and opportunities, expect them to excel.
With 52 million Americans identifying as Hispanic, Latinos make up 16.7 percent of the U.S. population. From 2010 to 2011 alone, the number of Hispanics in the country jumped by 1.3 million, a 2.5 percent increase. By 2050, the Hispanic population is expected to reach 132.8 million, or 30 percent of the projected U.S. population at that time. The Hispanic population in the U.S. in 2010 was the largest in the world outside of Mexico, which has a population of 112 million. Mexican Americans are the largest Latino group in the U.S., making up 63 percent of Hispanics in the nation. Next in line are Puerto Ricans, who make up 9.2 percent of the Hispanic population, and Cubans, who make up 3.5 percent of Hispanics.
Hispanic Concentration in the U.S.
Where are Hispanics concentrated in the country? More than 50 percent of Latinos call three states—California, Florida, and Texas—home. New Mexico stands out as the state with the most Hispanics, however. There, Latinos make up 46.7 percent of the state. Eight states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas—have Hispanic populations of at least 1 million. Los Angeles County boasts the highest number of Latinos, with 4.7 million Hispanics. Eighty-two of the country’s 3,143 counties were majority-Hispanic.
Flourishing in Businesses
From 2002 to 2007, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in 2007 jumped by 43.6 percent to 2.3 million. During that timeframe, they grossed $350.7 billion, which represents a 58 percent jump between 2002 and 2007. The state of New Mexico leads the nation in Hispanic-owned businesses. There, 23.7 percent of businesses are Hispanic-owned. Next in line is Florida, where 22.4 percent of businesses are Hispanic-owned, and Texas, where 20.7 percent are.
Challenges in Education
Latinos have advances to make in education. In 2010, just 62.2 percent of Hispanics aged 25 and up had a high school diploma. In contrast, from 2006 to 2010, 85 percent of Americans aged 25 and up had graduated from high school. In 2010, only13 percent of Hispanics had obtained at least a bachelor’s degree. More than double that proportion of Americans generally—27.9 percent—had obtained a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree. In 2010, only 6.2 percent of college students were Latino. That same year just more than a million Hispanics held advanced degrees—master’s, doctorate, etc.
Hispanics were the ethnic group said to be hardest hit by the economic recession that kicked off in 2007. From 2009 to 2010, the poverty rate for Latinos actually increased to 26.6 percent from 25.3 percent. The national poverty rate in 2010 was 15.3 percent. Moreover, the median household income for Latinos in 2010 was just $37,759. In contrast, the median household income for the nation between 2006 and 2010 was $51,914. The good news for Latinos is that the amount of Hispanics without health insurance appears to be declining. In 2009, 31.6 percent of Hispanics lacked health insurance. In 2010, that figure dropped to 30.7 percent.
Spanish speakers make up 12.8 percent (37 million) of the U.S. population. In 1990, 17.3 million Spanish speakers lived in the U.S. Make no mistake. Speaking Spanish doesn’t mean one isn’t fluent in English. More than half of the country’s Spanish speakers say they speak English “very well.” Most Hispanics in the U.S.—75.1 percent—spoke Spanish at home in 2010.