A new brief from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire says that natural increase – more births than deaths – is now the major engine of Hispanic population growth in many large metro areas and their suburbs as well as numerous smaller metropolitan areas and rural communities. Hispanics now account for half of U.S. population growth, and Hispanic population growth is the reason many communities grew instead of declining.
“A new demographic portrait of America is emerging, one being redrawn by a growing Hispanic population fueled by a large number of Hispanic births rather than immigration,” says report author Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute and a professor of sociology at UNH. “These trends will remake the social and cultural fabric of communities for decades to come.”
Between 2000 and 2007, more than half (58.6 percent) of Hispanic population gain was from natural increase. This natural increase is accelerating due to a high birth-to-death ratio (for every Hispanic death there are 8.36 births, compared to 1.37 non-Hispanic births to every death), which reflects a much younger population (median age of Hispanics is 27.6 compared with 38.6 for non-Hispanics); a higher percentage of women of child-bearing age (47.3 percent of Hispanic women compared to 40.6 percent of non-Hispanic women); high fertility among Hispanic women, who tend to have children earlier and have an average of 2.8 children compared with 2.0 among all U.S. women; and a death rate lower than the general population.
“Through natural increase, Hispanic population growth has taken on a momentum of its own and will likely continue, with or without restrictive immigration legislation or an economic downturn,” says Johnson, who co-authored the brief with Daniel Lichter, director of the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center and a professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University. The brief is based on a recent article by the authors published in the journal Population and Development Review.
The brief outlines not only how Hispanic population is increasing, but where. Hispanics are a major source of growth in rural America, accounting for 45.5 percent of non-metro population growth between 2000 and 2005. For many rural communities, Hispanic gains represent the first population growth in decades, helping to counteract an aging white population brought on in part by an exodus of youth. Hispanics are a source of new demographic vigor in rural America; about one-half of the non-metro Hispanic population now resides outside traditional Hispanic settlements in the rural Southwest.
The brief notes that Hispanic population growth due to natural increase demands a different set of policies compared to those associated with in-migration, with the former reinforcing the need to address questions about education, language, and intergenerational economic mobility.