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Sonia Sotomayor

Who Are US Hispanics?

June 25, 2009 02:30 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
Much is being made of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court and its implications for U.S. Hispanics, America’s fastest-growing minority group. What do we know about our Hispanic-origin population?

How Many Hispanics Are in the US?

A 2006 article on, the Web Site of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, reported that Hispanics have been the largest minority group in the United States since 2002.

According to “Hispanics in the United States,” a 2006 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2006, there were 44.3 million Hispanics in the U.S., making up 14.8 percent of the overall U.S. population of 299 million. Mexicans accounted for 64 percent of the Hispanic population in the U.S. in 2006, followed by Puerto Ricans (9 percent) and Central Americans (7.6 percent)

How Old Are US Hispanics?

Citing a U.S. Census Bureau survey released in 2006, USA Today reported that the “median age of Hispanics is 27.2 years compared to 36.2 nationwide. About a third are under 18 years of age, compared with one-fourth of the overall population.” In “We the People,” the Census reported that 4.8 percent of the Hispanic population was 65 years and older, compared to 12 percent of the overall population.

How Many US Hispanics Were Born in the US vs. Immigrated Here?

Although we have a pretty good idea of how many Hispanics are born in the U.S. each year, we don’t know how many Hispanics living in the U.S. today have immigrated illegally. “Nailing down such figures is impossible,” wrote Brad Knickerbocker for The Christian Science Monitor in 2006. Estimates range from some 7 million to 20 million or more.

“Whatever the total is, the annual number of illegal immigrants has exceeded those coming legally for at least the past 10 years: 700,000 illegally compared with 610,000 legally,” according to figures from the Pew Hispanic Center, cited by The Christian Science Monitor.

Even with such growth in immigration, both legal and illegal, the Hispanic birth rate is what’s really fueling Hispanic population growth in the U.S. “When all the attention is on immigration, natural increase is what's driving the population change," Roberto Suro of the Pew Hispanic Center told USA Today.

According to U.S. Census data cited by USA Today, “60% of the 1.3 million new Hispanics in 2005 are citizens because they were born here.” A 2007 study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that a “majority (52%) of the nation's 16 million Hispanic children are now ‘second generation,’ meaning they are the U.S.-born sons or daughters of at least one foreign-born parent.”

How Does the US Hispanic Population Impact American Culture?

Hispanic Americans are making contributions to American culture at all levels of society, including U.S. government, sports and popular culture, reports. “Language might most dramatically reflect the influence of Hispanics on American life,” the site observes. According to author and journalist Richard Rodriguez, a Mexican-American commentator for PBS, Spanish is heard around the U.S., and the U.S. “might be home to the world’s fifth-largest Spanish-speaking population, after Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Colombia.”

According to 2007 figures issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Hispanics continue to hold positions in U.S. government in greater numbers: “the number of Hispanics among the nation's civil servants grew by more than 1,000, to more than 126,000.” And the major political parties in the U.S., “judging by their outreach efforts to attract the Hispanic vote, are well aware of the growth in the country's Hispanic population,” according to

Hispanic culture has also been incorporated into American popular culture. Performers such as Carlos Santana, Gloria Estefan and Salma Hayek have left their mark on American entertainment, and Hispanic athletes have achieved success in American sports, especially baseball. Mexican foods such as tacos and burritos are just as common as American staples like hamburgers and hot dogs. Even holidays, such as Cinco de Mayo, have crossed the border and are widely celebrated around the U.S.

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