Hispanic America

July 30, 1982

Report Outline
Progress and Problems
Roots of Hispanics in U.S.
Illegal Immigration Issues
New Areas of Concern
Special Focus

Progress and Problems

Increased Numbers, Growing Influence

Thirty years ago the term Hispanic referred primarily to a few million Mexican-Americans residing in the southwestern United States. Today, Hispanics, with their distinctive heritages—Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, and Central and South American—have settled in every state of the Union. While they are still concentrated in such states as New Mexico, Texas and California, the number of Hispanics in other parts of the country has grown substantially; for example, almost one in 10 people in New York and Florida are Hispanic. Having demonstrated their permanence as a distinct cultural group, Spanish-speaking Americans are becoming accepted as part of American society, creating their own neighborhoods and influencing the structure and development of the communities in which they live.

According to the 1980 Census, there are 14.6 million Hispanics in the United States, or 6.4 percent of the total population. Hispanics are the second largest minority group, after blacks, and the fastest growing. While the total population of the United States increased by just under 50 percent between 1950 and 1980, the Hispanic population surged 270 percent. Part of this growth was fueled by high immigration—legal and illegal—and part by the large families typical of most Hispanic groups.

Perhaps most significantly, Hispanics constitute a youthful population, with much of its future ahead of it—schooling, employment, household formation and parenting—promising not only rapid numerical growth, but an increasingly important role in the economic and social structure of the United States. While precise projections are impossible, since they depend on how long the current high growth rate is sustained, some observers expect this collective group to surpass blacks as the country's largest minority, making them an even more visible element of Amerian society and further contributing to what is increasingly referred to as the “Hispanicization” of the United States.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oct. 17, 2003  Latinos' Future
Sep. 18, 1998  Hispanic-Americans' New Clout
Oct. 30, 1992  Hispanic Americans
Jul. 30, 1982  Hispanic America
Sep. 25, 1970  Spanish-Americans: the New Militants
Bilingual and Multicultural Education
Civil Rights: Hispanic Americans
Immigration and Naturalization
Outsourcing and Immigration