Proportion of US Hispanic population born abroad sees sharp decline

Reality of Latino community growth in contrast to alarmist illegal immigration messages

A demonstration in Los Angeles in support of immigration reform in 2013.
A demonstration in Los Angeles in support of immigration reform in 2013.Joe Klamar (AFP/Getty Images)

The number of Hispanics in the US born outside the country compared with the number born on American soil has declined sharply since 2000, creating an immigrant community that stands in contrast to the message conservative US presidential candidates are sending to the public. Based on statistics from the Census Bureau, the Pew Research Center says the drop in Latino immigration means that the number of Hispanic Americans born in Latin America and Spain is shrinking.

The proportion of US Hispanics born abroad has dropped from 40% in 2000 to 35% in 2013

The organization examined data collected from 2000 to 2013 for the 14 largest Hispanic groups, mostly those with origins in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia. Researchers also looked at differences in income, education and languages spoken based on country of origin, revealing that the Hispanic community is a diverse group that already represents 17.1% of the US population.

The immigrant community that has the largest number of Hispanics born abroad is Venezuela (69%), followed by Guatemala (64%), Colombia (61%) and El Salvador (59%). But the latter group has seen the greatest decline in the percentage of its community born outside the US, dropping from 76% in 2000 to 59% in 2013. Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians have also seen a more than 13% decrease in the proportion of their community who were born abroad. Among Mexicans, the largest Hispanic group in the US, the number of people born outside the country has declined by 8%.

In total, the proportion of Hispanics born outside of the United States has dropped from 40% in 2000 to 35% in 2013. But high birth rates have meant this change has not prevented the community from growing. In 2000, 14.1 million Hispanic immigrants were living in the United States and, by 2005, that number had grown to 16.8 million. In 2013, the Census Bureau reported that there were 19 million Hispanics living on American soil, making them the largest minority group in the country.

A quarter of Hispanics say they speak predominantly English, 38% say they speak mostly Spanish and 36% say they are bilingual

The 53 million Hispanics living in the United States make up a heterogeneous community in which  Mexicans form the most numerous group with 34.6 million residents, representing 64% of all Hispanics. Puerto Ricans account for 9.5% of the group, followed by Cubans and Salvadorans (3.7% each), and Dominicans (3.3%). Immigrants from Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras and Spain only make up 3% of the Hispanic community in the United States.

All these groups share a reality marked by economic challenges, their immigrant status, access to education and their social improvement. Three out of every four Hispanics were either born in the United States (65%) or obtained US citizenship (11%) after arrival. There are big differences between Hispanics of different origins: Puerto Ricans have the highest number of US citizens (99%), followed by Spaniards (93%), Cubans (76%) and Mexicans (75%). Less than half of Guatemalans and Hondurans, two communities at the forefront of the most recent major influx of immigrants, in summer 2014, hold citizenship.

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Although 68% of Hispanics say they either only speak English at home or that they speak it “very well,” only a quarter say they speak predominantly English. Another 38% say they speak mostly Spanish and 36% say they are bilingual. While 84% of Puerto Ricans only speak English or are bilingual, Salvadorans were found to be the group with the lowest proportion of English speakers (37%).

Income also varies among the different groups. Argentineans earn the most, taking in an annual average household income of $63,000, $20,000 more than the Hispanic community average of $41,000. A quarter of the Hispanic community lives below the poverty line, a much higher proportion than the US average (16%). The poorest groups are Guatemalans, Hondurans and Dominicans, 28% of whom live below the poverty line.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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