Emerging Trends Among U.S. Hispanics/Latinos – Pew Research Center

Mark Hugo LopezInterview of Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center by Norma J. Goodwin, M.D., Founder, President and CEO of Health Power for Minorities (Health Power). Health Power and the National Hispanic Medical Association are both delighted that Mark is also our 2015 Hispanic Heritage Honoree.

Health Power (Dr. Goodwin):

How would you describe the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project?

Mark Lopez (Pew Research Center):

We are a nonpartisan, non-advocacy research organization that seeks to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population. While our main focus is Hispanics, or Latinos, in the U.S., we also explore some immigration patterns and return flows from Latin America.

Health Power: Although one could get the impression from some media that there is a steady increase in the number of Hispanics immigrating to the U.S., the Pew Research Center reports that new Hispanic arrivals to the U.S. have stalled since the 2007-2009 recession.

Health Power considers it very important that the overall U.S. population become better informed about the U.S. Hispanic/Latino population given the fact that it is the nation’s largest minority population.

Pew Research Center:

I agree. In fact, we project that Hispanics will represent 24% (nearly one quarter) of the total U.S. population by 2050. By comparison, Whites are projected to represent 46% of the population, Blacks to represent 13%, and Asians to represent 14% by 2065. In other words, it is projected that by 2065, a majority of the U.S. population, or 51%, is projected to be non-white.

Health Power: Although the terms Hispanics and Latinos are generally used in the U.S. for populations who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries, we are aware that there are multiple Hispanic, or Latino, sub-populations. What are the top 5 sub-populations in the U.S., and what are their percentages of the total?

Pew Research Center:

Based on our analysis of the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey, the top 5 Hispanic, or Latino, sub-populations were:

Mexican   – 34.6 million

Puerto Rican   – 5.1 million

Cuban     – 2.0 million

Salvadoran     – 2.0 million

Dominican     – 1.8 million

Health Power:

What term do U.S. residents from Spanish-speaking countries prefer to be called, Hispanics or Latinos?

Pew Research Center:

Actually, the majority of persons with ancestries in Spanish-speaking countries prefer to be identified by their family’s country of origin, and only 24% prefer either one of the two pan-ethnic labels, Hispanic or Latino. According to our surveys, 51% have no preference between the two terms, and as for those who have a preference, “Hispanic” is preferred to “Latino” by 33% vs. 14%.

Health Power:

That’s all very interesting. While we respect those who prefer either term, for the rest of our interview, I will use the term Hispanic if that’s OK with you. Furthermore, we can both agree that when either of the two terms is used, those using the term are referring to the large and diverse groups of people in the U.S. whose roots are from Spanish-speaking countries?

Pew Research Center:

That’s correct. Speaking of diversity, there are many dimensions to it among U.S. Hispanics. Some important aspects are: ethnic origin, immigration generation, language use (Spanish or English), geographic location, and intermarriage.

Health Power:

Let’s talk about language first. What is the primary language used by most Hispanics?

Pew Research Center:

Thirty-five (35) % of Hispanic adults are Spanish dominant, 40% are bilingual, and 25% are English dominant. Although English use is on the rise, there is striking diversity among Hispanic on language.  Three-quarters of Hispanics ages 5 and older , for example, speak Spanish at home, although that share is falling.

Health Power:

This high level of Spanish use has important implications for both providing health education to Hispanics, and facilitating their achievement of health literacy, and thus improved health.

 Pew Research Center:

Your observation is correct.

Health Power:

Are you aware of any Hispanic organizations or companies in the U.S. that, like Health Power, have a primary mission of providing health education and health promotion services and interactions through widespread communication? Especially by providing customized, user-friendly and culturally relevant health information, materials and tools as well as use of social media.

Pew Research Center:

While I know of a few Hispanic organizations that include health improvement in their missions, I’m unaware of any that have a similar level of widespread focus that Health Power has.

And that’s in spite of the fact that 75% of the Hispanic population would benefit greatly from more Spanish and bilingual health related information, materials and communication.

Also, there are even greater Spanish language needs among those populations that have more recently settled in the U.S., especially in more rural communities and the Southern U.S., where many recent Hispanic immigrants have settled.

Health Power:

Speaking further of diversity, how does that relate to geographic distribution, including why such a large percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. are from Mexico.

Pew Research Center

Regarding your question about the disproportionate number of Hispanics from Mexico, there are two key factors, among others:

(a) Mexico’s proximity to the U.S., especially regarding California, Texas and New Mexico, and

(b) History, namely the fact that before they became a part of the U.S., New Mexico, Texas, California, Colorado, and Arizona were a part Mexico. Regarding geographic distribution more broadly, there are also concentrations related to job opportunities, and “word of mouth” migration. There are Puerto Rican concentrations in Philadelphia, New York and even Hawaii (the latter because of sugar cane farms in Hawaii, and Puerto Rico’s skilled workforce. There are concentrations of Dominicans in Boston and Rhode Island, etc.

Health Power:

Share with us one or two indicators of economic status according to race and ethnicity.

Pew Research Center:

  1. Many Hispanics live in cellphone only households, with the percentage in June 2014 being 56%, as compared to 45% of Blacks, and 40% of Whites.
  2. More Hispanic children in the U.S. live in poverty than any other group. For example, in 2013 there were 5.4 million Hispanic children who live in poverty compared with 4.3 million Black children and 4.1 million White children.

Health Power:

Still speaking of diversity, what are the rates of intermarriage by race or ethnicity? (By intermarriage, I mean the percentage of newlyweds who marry someone of another race or ethnicity).

Pew Research Center:

Intermarriage rates among newlyweds by race and Ethnicity are as follows:

Asians 27.7%             Hispanics 25.7%             Blacks 17.1%               Whites   9.4%

By the way, most of the intermarriage by Hispanics and Asians is to Whites.

Health Power:

What are the greatest health problems facing U.S. Hispanics?

Pew Research Center:

  • Obesity – especially among Hispanic children
  • Diabetes – which as you know is heavily associated with obesity, and
  • Heart Disease – which is often a secondary effect of obesity and/or diabetes.

To an extent, these are related to what is called, “The Hispanic Health Paradox”. Specifically, there is more likely to be delayed diagnosis because of greater reluctance, or inability, of seeking ‘regular medical care’. Two major contributing factors are (a) 8 million of the 31 to 32 million Hispanics in the U.S are unauthorized immigrants, and (b) language barriers.

A third important issue is that many Hispanics who would otherwise be eligible for Affordable Care Act benefits are ineligible because of their immigration status.

Health Power:

There are two special notes that I’d like to end this informative and enjoyable interview with:

  1. Instead of using the terms undocumented or illegal immigrants, the Pew Research Center uses the term “unauthorized”. Spread the Word.
  1. Health Power and our Hispanic Heritage Celebration partner, the National Hispanic Medical Association, are both pleased and proud to have you, Mark Hugo Lopez, as our 2015 Hispanic Heritage Honoree – – – because of the outstanding contributions that you and the Pew Research Center have made, and are making, to improve the health and heritage of U.S. Hispanics.
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