As a result of rising immigration from Latin America since 1970 and a swelling second generation, the Hispanic population approached 40 million in 2003, surpassing African Americans as the largest U.S. minority group.1 Hispanics’ high rates of immigration and above-average fertility are projected to continue, making them one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population for the foreseeable future. According to current projections, Hispanics, or people of Hispanic descent, will number about 85 million in 2030—representing almost 1 in 4 U.S. residents.2
More than population growth and absolute size, the generational transition now under way will decide the course of Hispanic integration during the 21st century. The proportion of Hispanics who are first-generation immigrants will shrink as demographic growth shifts, once again, from immigration to fertility, accelerating the generational transition. Given the assumptions discussed in Chapter 2, by 2030 just under 1 in 3 Hispanics will be second generation, and a comparable share will be third or higher generation. Although this represents a modest increase since 2000, when just over 1 in 4 Hispanics were second generation, the generational change is profound for two reasons. First, the numbers involved are significant—26 million versus 10 million. Second, the age structure involved is dramatically different (see Figure 6-1).
For the nation, the youthful Hispanic population represents a significant demographic dividend not available to other industrialized countries