The rapid growth and increasing diversity of today’s Hispanic population is primarily a result of major waves of migration from Puerto Rico after World War II, the exodus from Cuba after the 1959 revolution, and especially the surge of immigration from Mexico and Latin America since 1970. In 1960, approximately 4 percent of U.S. residents were Hispanic; today, they are close to 14 percent. Almost two-thirds of the foreign-born Hispanics have arrived since 1980, but fertility will overtake immigration as the driver of Hispanic population growth in the current decade. Continuing the fertility and immigration trends now under way, by 2030 Hispanics are projected to comprise about one-fourth of the U.S. population.

Behind the numbers resides a complex story of diversity along many dimensions that will shape Hispanics’ social and economic narratives in the decades ahead. This volume, which serves as a companion to Multiple Origins, Uncertain Destinies: Hispanics and the American Future (National Research Council, 2006), provides detailed analyses using multiple sources to characterize this dynamic, eclectic population from multiple perspectives; to evaluate whether and in what ways Hispanics are distinctive from other immigrant and minority groups; and to assess the social integration prospects of recent arrivals and their descendants.4 Collectively, the volume documents how the growing Hispanic presence is being felt in schools, in workplaces, at the ballot box, and in health care systems throughout the nation.

Two overarching themes unify the papers. One theme is whether apparent differences between Hispanics and other race and ethnic groups are real—that is, whether there is something distinctive about “Hispanicity” not shared by other groups. The second theme is whether Hispanics, particularly immigrants and their native-born offspring, are assimilating into the U.S. mainstream and along what dimensions. Because changes in the composition of the Hispanic population by national origin, immigrant status, and generation bear decisively on both themes, the authors have considered, where data permitted, both temporal and intergenerational changes in their analyses and inferences.

Hispanics differ from non-Hispanics in several ways that set them apart from other race and ethnic groups in the United States: a youthful age structure; low average education levels; disproportionate concentration in unskilled jobs; a common ancestral language; and, among the foreign-born, a significant share who are legally undocumented. Each of these differences


Many of the authors used a common file of the March Current Population Survey for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002, including specially constructed variables for data about Hispanic ethnicities and generational cohorts defined by age at arrival and nativity of self and parents. Nonetheless, care should be used in comparisons across chapters.

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