Babies, not immigration, drive Hispanic growth

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The numbers tell a striking story of change in the 21st century. The 2010 census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, making them more than 16 percent of the U.S. population.

The head count also found that Hispanics were responsible for more than half of the nation's growth—56 percent—from 2000 to 2010.

Babies, not immigration, are driving the growth.

A study by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that the new trend is especially true among the largest of all Hispanic groups, Mexican Americans.

From 2000 to 2010, the Mexican-American population grew by 7.2 million because of births and 4.2 million because of new immigrant arrivals. This is a change from the previous two decades, when the number of new immigrants either matched or exceeded the number of births.

The unprecedented national growth is reflected in population rates close to home.

In Rock County, the Hispanic population jumped from 5 percent to 15 percent in Bradford Township from 2000 to 2010. In Beloit, it surged from 9 percent to 17 percent. In Lima Township, it swelled from 12 percent to more than 17 percent.

In Walworth County, Delavan's Hispanic population grew from 21 percent to more than 29 percent. In Darien, it increased from 14 percent to more than 22 percent. In the village of Sharon, it rose from 7 percent to more than 16 percent.

The surge in births is a result of one of the largest mass migrations in modern history. More than 12 million Mexicans moved to the United States in the last four decades. Researchers say the chief reasons are Mexico's relative poverty and its proximity to the United States.

If the Hispanic population continues to grow at its current rate, a historic shift will occur in the U.S. population during the next 40 years. A 2008 U.S. Census Bureau projection estimates that ethnic and racial minorities will be the majority in the United States by 2050.

The most recent census data shows that the United States is changing from a majority white country to a majority minority country. About one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic by 2050.

Last updated: 1:36 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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