By Dr. Michele C. Dávila, Department of Foreign Languages
In this past month of March the U. S. Census Bureau sent the census form to every home in the country. This made me curious to know about the Hispanic population in the United States and led me to review their numbers in the past years.
It is already documented that Hispanics are the nation’s largest ethnic minority, constituting 15% of the total population. As of July 1, 2008, it was estimated that there were 46.9 million Hispanics in the United States. This includes 4 million Puerto Ricans who reside in the US but not the 3.8 million Puerto Ricans, all of whom are automatically American citizens, residing on the island. Taking into account the increase of the population in the last couple of years, the projected Hispanic population in the U.S. for 2050 is 132.8 million. This is staggering, considering that in 1990 the population was only 22.4 million. It is also very interesting to note that the United States has the second largest Hispanic population worldwide; with Mexico being the first.
By the year 2007, 64% of Hispanic-origin people were of Mexican background. This should not be a surprise because until 1848 Mexico’s territory contained what is known today as California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The other percentages of Hispanic nationalities in the States are: 9% Puerto Rican, 3.5% Cuban, 3.1 % Salvadoran and 2.7% Dominican. The rest is a mixture of all the other Latin American countries, Spaniards, and their descendants. The states with the largest Hispanic population are California with 13.5 million, Texas with 8.9 million, and the following states have at least a half-million: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
In 2007, 35 million U.S. residents spoke Spanish. This constitutes 12% of the nation’s population. More than half also speak English. In terms of economic progress, by 2002 the number of Hispanic-owned businesses was 1.6 million, 44.6% being owned by Mexican-Americans or Chicanos. The revenue generated by these businesses was $222 billion. To understand the importance of the Hispanic population in terms of elections, 9.7 million Hispanics voted in 2004, and this only represented 50% of the Hispanic voting population. Also, by 2007, 1.1 million were serving in the U.S. armed forces.
But all this increase in population and business hasn’t translated into good economic opportunities or education. The median income for Hispanic households is $38,679 per year, the poverty rate is 21.5%, and 32.1% of the Hispanic population lacks health insurance. Of all the Hispanic population only 3.6 million have a bachelor’s degree, and 1 million have advanced degrees. By 2007, 12% were college students, and 20% were enrolled in elementary and high schools.
One last bit of information that I found interesting is that four Hispanic surnames for the first time ranked among the first 15 most common in 2000. The intriguing factor for me is that all of them are names that require an accent mark in Spanish but that now they have lost that trademark. They are in order: Garcia (8th in the list), Rodriguez (9th in the list), Martinez (11th) and Hernandez (15th). (http://www.census.gov/genealogy/www/data/2000surnames/index.html)
In a country in which some still view Hispanics, Latinos, and Chicanos, with suspicion, the numbers here attest to the fact that Hispanics are a well established group in the United States, and cannot be avoided, silenced or ignored. I am very curious to see what the new census numbers will be.
 U.S. Census Bureau News, July 15, 2009.