NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hispanic Minority Shows Diversity, Assimilation

March 14, 2001

New Census figures show Hispanics have overtaken blacks as the largest minority group in the country, but observers note "Hispanic" is really a convenient umbrella term for the 35.5 million people (12 percent of the population) who are among the most heterogeneous ethnic groups.

  • They hail from two dozen countries, and, as the Census Bureau reports, may be of any race.
  • The most significant division in the Hispanic population is the difference between Hispanics born in the U.S. and the 10 million foreign-born who have come here in the past 20 years.
  • Mexican-Americans make up about two-thirds of the overall Hispanic population and have, for the most part, achieved solid lower-middle to middle class status.
  • When the government reports that 23 percent of Hispanics live in poverty compared with only 7.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites, the figures are somewhat misleading, since they understate the poverty of foreign-born Hispanics and overstate it for native born.

Will Hispanics become fully integrated into the social and economic mainstream over time? Some analysts are skeptical, noting the proximity of the homelands and constant influx of their compatriots make it difficult for them to assimilate.

Others, however, point to the openness of American society, which has removed the discrimination earlier immigrants faced, the willingness of employers to hire the foreign-born, the removal of bilingual education, which speeds immigrant children's learning of English and the large intermarriage rate of Hispanics with non-Hispanic whites - now about one-third of the young, U.S.-born Hispanic population.

Source: Linda Chavez (Center for Equal Opportunity), "Just Another Ethnic Group," Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2001.

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