Demographic Patterns: Age Structure, Fertility, Mortality, and Population Growth

  • Jorge del Pinal

One of the most important recent demographic events in the United States is the emergence of the Latino population as the largest minority population. The rapid growth of the Hispanic population in the last three or four decades has in effect rejuvenated the aging U.S. population by adding children and working-age adults, at the same time making it more ethnically diverse. Saenz (2005) noted that the size of the Latino population doubled between 1980 and 2000, but more importantly, Latinos also accounted for 40% of the country’s population growth. That rapid growth has continued since 2000, accounting for almost half the increase of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). In this chapter we will seek to answer the following questions: Why is the Latino population growing rapidly? What are some of the demographic causes of that growth? What are the factors that might affect future growth? In order to answer these questions, we need to examine the basic demographic components affecting the growth of the Hispanic population: fertility, mortality, and international migration. Past changes in these components affected the current age structure and will affect future population growth. Another crucial factor in the future growth of Hispanics, as we will see, is the degree to which Latinos marry non-Latinos and the degree to which children of mixed-origin marriages choose to identify with their Hispanic origin. Demography is the scientific study of human populations. Among the factors studied by demographers are those that determine changes in a population’s size, composition, and distribution. The geographic distribution of the Hispanic population in the United States is primarily determined by the historical patterns of immigration and immigrants’ ties to the gateway cities in the West, South, Midwest, and Northeast through which immigrant Latinos arrived in the United States. In recent years, Latinos, particularly the foreign-born, have responded to emerging economic opportunities in states that were not the traditional gateway states. Between 1995 and 2000, more Latinos left the West and Northeast to go to other parts of the United States than moved to the West or Northeast from elsewhere in the United States. The South and Midwest recorded net immigration of Latinos (Schachter, 2003). Thus, new Latino communities have emerged in new settlement areas of the South and Midwest (Saenz, 2005). The presence of Hispanics predates the founding and expansion of the United States as a country. There might have been around 500,000 Latinos in the United States in 1900 (Saenz, 2005:352). However, it is the massive immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean in the last three and a half decades that has played the major role in the demography of the Latino population in the United States. In 2005, about 68% of Hispanics were either immigrants (40%) or children of immigrants (28%). Nevertheless, about 60% of Latinos were born in the United States or its possessions and are therefore U.S. citizens by birth. Another 10% were foreign-born and have since become naturalized U.S. citizens. In sum, 7 of every 10 Hispanics are currently U.S. citizens, either by birth or by naturalization.2


Census Bureau Hispanic Population Latino Population Hispanic Origin Male Percent 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jorge del Pinal
    • 1
  1. 1.Population DivisionU.S. Census BureauUSA

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