Census: Latino profile in U.S. rapidly changing
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
May 25, 2012: According to the latest U.S. Census data, foreign-born households in the United States are, on average, larger than most, have more children under age 18, and are more likely to have three or more generations living there. Among the regions of birth, family households with someone born in Latin America and the Caribbean were the most likely to include children under 18 (70 percent).
The larger household sizes of Latin-American families may be out of necessity. No other group in the survey had more undocumented immigrants and Latin Americans had a higher percentage living in poverty than any other world region among the foreign-born living in the U.S. Yet there is a movement afoot to eliminate the survey as a distribution vehicle for federal funding of social welfare and other programs.
Nearly 40 million foreign-born people now reside in the U.S, roughly 13 percent of the nation’s total population—the highest level since 1920. The foreign born population rose from 31 million a decade earlier.
More than one-third of the foreign-born population came to live in the U.S. in 2000 or later. But that growth slowed in the last few years as immigration dropped.
The size of foreign-born households is 3.4 people, compared with 2.5 for native-born households. One in ten foreign-born households had a grandparent living in the home, as opposed to just five percent of native-born families.
The Census Bureau last week released a report which profiles the foreign-born population living in the U.S. The information in the report comes from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS), which is conducted separately from the official population count conducted every ten years. The ACS is an annual survey of three million U.S. households.
While roughly one of every three people born in Latin America are now naturalized citizens, census officials point out the longer an immigrant resides in the U.S., the more likely they are to pursue U.S. citizenship. 72 percent of those who arrived in the U.S. from Latin America prior to 1980 are now naturalized citizens. That figure rises to 86 percent for immigrants born in the Caribbean and South America.
However, just nine percent of Latin-American-born immigrants who arrived in the U.S. since 2000 are naturalized citizens. Just one in 20 who came from Mexico in the past decade has achieved legal U.S. citizenship, according to the survey. In fact, Mexican immigrants had the lowest percentage of naturalized citizens among all foreign-born groups for each decade studied.
By comparison, 44 percent of all foreign-born residents are naturalized citizens. Four of every five immigrants who arrived in the U.S. prior to 1980 now is a naturalized citizen.
One of every four foreign-born people lives in California. Four states—California, New York, Texas, and Florida—represent more than half the foreign-born population living in the U.S. While those remain traditional “gateway” states for the foreign-born, more recent immigrants are starting to settle where there is a lower percentage of non-native residents: places such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. Less than five percent of Ohio’s population is foreign-born.
More than half of the nation’s foreign-born people, or 21.2 million, arrived from Latin America and the Caribbean, the report showed. More specifically, 11.7 million people, or nearly 30 percent of the entire foreign-born population, came from Mexico. There are nearly one million people who came from Cuba.
Half of the foreign-born are between the ages of 18 and 44, compared with about one-third of the native-born U.S. population. Foreign-born people are more likely to be married and less likely to be divorced.
But the foreign-born from Latin America (54 percent) had the lowest proportion of married people. Those born in Mexico were the most likely of Latin Americans to be married (58 percent), while those born in the Caribbean were most likely to be separated or divorced (18 percent).
The median age of foreign born immigrants is 37.2 years of age. Mexican and other Central American immigrants closely match that median age, but South American (42.2 years old) and Caribbean (46.7 median age) tend to be older by five to ten years.
The foreign-born were more likely to be employed than native-born Americans, the study showed. 68 percent of the foreign-born population ages 16 or older were working in 2010, compared with 64 percent of those born in the U.S. Four of every five foreign-born men were in the labor force, compared to just over two-thirds of native-born men. By contrast, three of every five of U.S.-born women were employed, compared with 57 percent of foreign-born women.
Among the foreign-born aged 25 and older, two of every three were high school graduates. But only 53 percent of those born in Latin America had achieved a high school diploma. Among Latin Americans, only 40 percent of those born in Mexico were high school graduates. By comparison, those figures were 83 percent for those born in South America and 73 percent for those born in the Caribbean.
The foreign-born from Latin America were the least likely of all region-of-birth groups to work in management, business, science, and arts occupations (14 percent), but the most likely to work in service jobs (31 percent).
There is a sharp contrast between the median incomes of native-born family households ($62,358) and foreign-born family households ($49,785). For Latin American families, that figure drops precipitously, to a median income of $38, 238. Mexican families were the lowest of Latin American groups at $35,254.
But people born elsewhere were less likely than those born in U.S. to have health insurance and more likely to be living below the poverty line.
Nine out of ten native born U.S. residents had some form of health insurance coverage, while just two of every three foreign born had coverage. Those born in Latin America (just over half) were likely to be covered by some form of health insurance. But Latin Americans who did have health insurance also were the least likely (two of every three) to be covered by a private insurer.
Among regions of birth, the poverty rate was highest for the U.S. foreign-born population from Latin America. The poverty statistics among the Latin American population may be the most telling information of the 2010 survey of the foreign-born.
One of every four people born in Latin America lived in poverty in 2010. The poverty rate was highest among the population from Mexico—28 percent.
Two of every five children born in Latin America lived in poverty. The rate for Mexican children under the age of 18 was 46 percent. Among senior citizens, one of every five Latin Americans age 65 or older lived below the poverty line.
Language continues to be a major barrier for foreign born in general, and Latin America in particular. One in ten foreign born did not speak English at all, according to the census survey.
Just 37 percent of the Latin American population either spoke only English at home or a language other than English at home and spoke English “very well.”
One in three Caribbean households spoke only English at home. But that figure dropped precipitously in South American (15.4 percent), Mexican (3.2 percent), and other Central American (6.7 percent) households.
The U.S. Census Bureau shortened its questionnaire during the 2010 population count and replaced it with the annual American Community Survey as a mechanism to distribute $450 billion in annual federal funds.
But there is a bill moving through Congress that seeks to eliminate ACS funding, with its Republican sponsors arguing the survey is unconstitutional and serves as an invasion of privacy. The GOP-controlled House voted 232 to 190 last week along party lines to cut all funding for the survey in 2013.The Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, has not acted on the bill.
What effect that would, in turn, have on the distribution of federal dollars toward social welfare and anti-poverty programs remains unclear. But it could have a drastic effect on the well-being of Latin American children and families living in poverty.