Key points to remember:
- Today, 1 in 5 American residents is Latino.
- The Latin American population includes distinct groups from the Americas and the Caribbean and is racial, cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic diversity.
- Understanding how different Latino groups are uniquely affected by social, political, and economic factors is important for developing long-term policy.
As the Latin American population has grown from 35 million in 2000 to over 62 million, overall levels of education, property, and economic security for Latinos have also increased. But those gains also mask stark differences among the increasingly diverse Latino population, according to UCLA researchers.
The findings are part of a wide-ranging report released today by UCLA Latin Institute of Politics and Politics which examines demographic and socioeconomic changes among Latinos in the United States between 2000 and 2020 with a focus on how 19 Latino “origin” groups – from Mexicans and Puerto Ricans to Panamanians and Venezuelans – have experienced these changes differently.
“Latinos are often treated as a monolith in policy discussions, but our report finds great diversity in how different groups experience opportunities and gains,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, research director of the institute. “Through a better understanding of changes and trends, we hope to improve the conversation about how to better meet the needs of this diverse community.”
The changing face of the Latino population
Today, 1 in 5 residents of the United States is Latino, with Latinos accounting for more than half of America’s population growth over the past two decades. But the face of this population is changing considerably. While those of Mexican descent still make up the majority, at nearly 60%, the percentage of Paraguayans, Hondurans and Guatemalans has quadrupled, and the Venezuelan community has increased more than sixfold.
The report also shows that Latinos have expanded beyond traditional geographic enclaves, moving into areas of the Midwest and South with historically sparse Latino populations. North and South Dakota, for example, have seen the fastest Latino population growth in the past 20 years, while Kentucky, South Carolina and Alabama have all seen well-rounded increases. greater than 200%.
More Latinos are getting college degrees
Between 2000 and 2020, the proportion of Latinos with a bachelor’s degree or higher doubled from 10% to 20%, reflecting a national trend among racial and ethnic groups. However, strong differences in educational attainment exist with the Latin American community, with 53% of Venezuelans having obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 12% to 15% of those of Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Mexican origin.
Venezuelans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Dominicans and Guatemalans were less likely than other groups to speak only English at home, while Puerto Ricans and Panamanians were the most likely. Overall, 1 in 3 Latinos speak only English at home today, up from 1 in 5 in 2000.
Work, poverty and home ownership
Latino participation in the labor force is now higher than any other group in the United States, with 67% of working-age people currently in the labor force. Latinos have also seen the largest decline of any racial and ethnic group in those living in poverty – a drop of 6 percentage points since 2000. But poverty rates vary widely across the Latino community, South -Americans generally have lower rates and Mexicans, Central Americans and Puerto Ricans have higher rates.
Latinos are also more likely to own their homes today than in 2000, an increase from 49% to 56%. Although almost all Latino groups experienced growth in homeownership, several – Cubans, Paraguayans and Venezuelans – actually experienced declines in homeownership.
Other key findings from the analysis:
- Two-thirds of Latinos were born in the United States, with the highest rates among Mexicans and Panamanians.
- While the Latin American population is young (median age of 30, compared to 25 in 2000), immigrants from countries such as Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay have a median age of 38 or more – closer to the median age of the white population.
- A larger share of the Latino population is female, especially among people of Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran descent.
“Factors such as slowing immigration from Latin American countries and socio-economic improvements across the board have changed the face of American Latinos,” said report author Jie Zong, an analyst. senior research fellow at the institute. “A new snapshot is important to update community perceptions.”
The report’s findings are based on an analysis of US Census data from 2000 and 2020.
This work was supported by the WK Kellogg Foundation and the Casey Family programs.