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Multiple Origins, Uncertain Destinies: Hispanics and the American Future
Currently the nation’s largest ethnic minority, Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population, and they will remain so for the foreseeable future. Numbering over 40 million today, Hispanics are growing by more than 1.5 million annually, from both continuing immigration and natural increase. If current demographic trends continue, nearly 1 in 4 U.S. residents will be Hispanic, or of Hispanic ancestry, by 2030—just a generation hence—up from about 1 in 7 in 2000. Until recently, Hispanics were concentrated in the largest cities in Texas and California, as well as Chicago, New York, and Miami. Now they are scattering nationally, and communities throughout the country are facing the challenges presented by a new, quickly growing immigrant population.
The Hispanic population is characterized by a youthful age structure; a large number of foreign born, including many “undocumented”; low levels of education; and disproportionate concentration in low-skill, low-wage jobs. And its presence is being felt in the nation’s schools, labor market, health care systems, and political life. A pivotal element of this story is the Hispanic second generation, the children of Spanish-speaking immigrants, who are coming of age as the white majority population is aging. Now numbering 10 million, the second generation is projected to grow to 26 million over the next 25 years. Today the majority of the second generation is in school; by 2030 the majority will be in the labor force. Their economic and social integration will depend on educational investments made today: