market, and their access to health care and the political system. A notable example of the importance of this population was its role in the recent presidential election: the Hispanic vote may have influenced the outcome (Cobble and Velaquez, 2004). Given the demographic destiny of the Latino population, that influence is likely to grow with its dispersion into new states and as immigrants become citizens and their children reach voting age.

At the same time, the Latino population has become increasingly diverse by national origin. Mexicans continue to constitute the large majority of Latinos in the United States, driving the demographic behavior of Latinos in general as well as mainstream American attitudes toward the Hispanic group. However, many other groups have also become part of the new immigration from Latin America, as the previous chapter has shown. While Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans constituted almost all Latinos in the United States just 30 years ago, Dominicans, Central Americans, and South Americans have doubled or tripled their numbers in the past two decades. This chapter also shows that Latino national groups vary greatly in their age structure and extent of regional dispersion. Specifically, Cubans have an old age structure and have become increasingly concentrated, two patterns that are unlike the rest of the Latino population, whereas Mexicans and Central Americans are especially young and have migrated throughout the United States.


Demographic growth or decline is a result of births and deaths, also known as natural growth and net migration, which is the balance of immigration and emigration. The growth of the Latino population is mostly the result of two of these components, births or fertility and immigration. While many assume that the growth is due almost entirely to immigration, relatively high rates of Latino fertility now constitute roughly half of all population growth. That fertility is comprised largely of births to immigrants, but a sizeable component can also be attributed to the U.S.-born. Table 3-1 breaks down Latino population growth in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s into that resulting from either immigration or fertility to both immigrants and the U.S.-born.

The last row of the table shows that, in the 1990s, nearly half (48 percent) of Latino population growth was due to immigration, 28 percent can be attributed to fertility among immigrants, and the remaining 24 percent resulted from the fertility of U.S.-born Latinos. The same table also shows that, in relative terms, the share of Latino growth due directly to immigration in 1990–2000 declined compared with the decade before, when immigration accounted for fully 56 percent of growth. Even though immi-

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