More than 30 years ago a national news magazine proclaimed that the 1980s would be the “Hispanic Decade.” It didn’t exactly pan out that way, although it is true that with each passing decade the United States has become increasingly Latino.
Contrary to popular opinion, that’s a good thing. However, the din of negativity about Latinos is drowning out important data about us, information that adds to the complexity of who we are as a people and individuals, and what we contribute to the nation.
It has reached the point where Latinos are staring at a surreal image straight from Salvador Dalí‘s brush, our faces melted into unrecognizable features. But we are many and we cannot be easily reduced to criminals and some good people. We are 64 million strong. More than a dozen nationalities fall under the aegis of Hispanic or Latino. We did not all cross a border to get here. In fact, most Latinos were born right here in the USA.
A fascinating commentary in today’s Wall Street Journal titled, Latino Workers Save America from Stagnation, states “Latinos in the U.S. are like the cavalry coming over the hill to support the economy and sustain growth through coming decades.”
Here are some data points culled from multiple credible sources, from the Census Bureau to Pew Research, among others, that paint a more accurate portrait of the multifaceted, multiracial and multiethnic Latinos not just in Florida but nationwide.
We are many: 60 million or 18 percent of the U.S. population, higher in states like Florida where nearly 1 of every 4 Floridians is Latino. Note that Mexicans are not the fastest-growing Latino population. Venezuelans are, up 76% since 2010, followed by Dominicans (37%) and Guatemalans (30%). Puerto Ricans came in fourth (20%).
We are diverse: 62% Mexican, 10% Puerto Rican, 4% Salvadoran, 4% Cuban, 3.5% Dominican. The demographics vary by metro area. Mexicans dominate in the West, Puerto Ricans in the Orlando area, and Salvadorans dominate in the Washington, D.C. area, for example.
We are young: 29.5 years is the median age, meaning half of Latinos are younger and half are older. But Cubans are the oldest Latinos (40 years median age) and Mexicans are the youngest (27).
We work: 66% of Latinos are in the labor force, the second highest participation of any ethnic group (Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders rank higher – 67 percent). The participation figure is higher for Central and South Americans (70%), and a little lower for Puerto Ricans and Cubans (62%).
According to the Journal article by Sol Trujillo of the Latino Donor Collaborative, an organization that works to reframe and advance an accurate perception of Latinos, 82% of growth in the U.S. workforce since 2008 came from Latinos, and without us “Social Security would already be in danger of collapse.”
- 39% of food processing workers,
- 34% of cooks,
- 47% of apparel workers,
- 37% of construction workers and 70% of drywall installers.
If Latinos in the U.S. were a country, we’d have the eighth largest economy in the world, valued at more than $2.3 trillion, according to the Latino Donor Collaborative.
We are citizens: 79% of Latinos are citizens, up from 74% in 2010. Citizenship rates range from 99% for Puerto Ricans to 51% for Venezuelans.
We are immigrants, too: 33%, and a declining share of the Latino population. About 46% of Latino immigrants have lived in the U.S. for 21 or more years.
We speak English: 70% of Latinos 5 years and older speak English proficiently, up from 65% in 2010.
We own our homes: Nearly 50% of Latinos are homeowners, a figure that varies by ethnic group and metro area.
For sure, Latinos have a long way to go, especially in terms of educational attainment and higher incomes, but we are not the scofflaws that segments of the politerati would have you believe. And there are plenty of data to provide a vigorous counter argument.
˜˜María T. Padilla, Editor