Young Hispanics will shape society in 21st century: Report

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hispanics are the largest and youngest minority group in the United States.

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that one in five schoolchildren is Hispanic. One in four newborns is Hispanic.

"Never before in this country's history has a minority ethnic group made up so large a share of the youngest Americans," a 2009 Pew Hispanic report said. "By force of numbers alone, the kinds of adults these young Latinos become will help shape the kind of society America becomes in the 21st century."

Among other things, the report looked at the attitudes, values and social behaviors of Hispanics ages 16 to 25. "Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America" is based on government demographics and a Pew Hispanic Center telephone survey of more than 2,000 Hispanics.

The results show that young Hispanics are satisfied with their lives, work hard and place value on career success. On the other hand, they are much more likely than other American youths to drop out of school and become teenage parents. They also are more likely than white and Asian youths to live in poverty. And they have high levels of exposure to gangs.

Their attitudes and behavior have been associated with the immigrant experience, the report said, but most Hispanic youths are not immigrants. The report said that two-thirds were born in the United States, and many are descendants of the big wave of Latin American immigrants who began coming to this country in the mid-1960s.

It is too soon to tell if today's Hispanic immigrants and their offspring will lose their sense of identity from their home country in the same way European immigrants of the 19th and 20th centuries did, the report said.

But the study shows that as Hispanic immigrants settle in, they do exactly what previous immigrants have done: They learn English. From one generation to the next, immigrant families grow more proficient with their new language and less with their old.

The Pew national survey found that 48 percent of foreign-born Hispanics ages 16 to 25 can carry on a conversation in English. Among their counterparts born in the United States, 98 percent can carry on a conversation in English.

As this march toward English unfolds, however, young Hispanics are not abandoning the Spanish language. About nine in 10 immigrant youths and eight in 10 who were born in the United States are fluent in Spanish, the survey said.

Even among young people who were born in the United States to American-born parents, four in 10 or 38 percent of third-generation Hispanics could speak and understand Spanish.

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

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