Nov 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

How Latinos have changed the American landscape

Growth of U.S. Latino population by descent
Data: Jie Zong, 2022, "A Mosaic, Not a Monolith: A Profile of the U.S. Latino Population, 2000-2020"; Chart: Madison Dong/Axios Visuals

An examination of Latinos' lives over a 20-year span found increasing diversity and major educational and economic gains, though some inequalities remain, according to a new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute.

The big picture: The report, which compared U.S. Census data from 2000 and 2o20, paints a picture of just how much Latinos have changed the American landscape — and how it's changed them, too.

By the numbers: Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants still account for the largest share of U.S. Latinos (59%), but the share of people from South and Central America is quickly growing, owing largely to political and economic instability in those nations.

  • There was a 550% increase in the number of Venezuelans living in the U.S. between 2000 and 2020.
  • There was a 356% increase in Paraguayans.
  • Hondurans and Guatemalans also saw staggering growth in the U.S.

The Latino population increased most rapidly in the American South and the Midwest during that time, according to the report.

  • North Dakota and South Dakota experienced the fastest growth in the Latino population — 333% and 265%.
  • South Carolina saw a 207% jump while Alabama underwent a 202% increase.
  • Latinos' migration to the Midwest and South was largely a result of agricultural jobs, José G. Villagrán, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at San Antonio, told Axios, adding that many face alienation and discrimination.

The intrigue: The proportion of Latinos with a bachelor's degree or higher doubled, from 10% to 20%, according to the report.

  • The Latino homeownership rate went up from 49% to 56%.
  • The rate of Latinos who are U.S. citizens grew from 71% to 82%.
  • "It is one of those myths we keep trying to dispel across the U.S. People in the U.S, still see Latinos are foreigners," said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, director of research at the Latino Policy and Politics Institute.

The reports notes the many ways Latinos have progressed over the last two decades, but Jennie Luna, a professor of Chicana/o Studies at California State University Channel Islands, told Axios she's skeptical things have improved that much.

  • Luna said she lives in an agricultural area in California's Ventura County where there are housing shortages and increased living experiences. "This eats into that data of this report."

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