Latinos are projected to become the largest “single racial/ethnic group” in the state of California by March of this year, according to California Governor Jerry Brown’s new state budget.
California has more than 14 million Latino residents, giving it one of the nation’s largest Latino populations—about 39 percent of the state population. New Mexico is one of the only other states where the white population is not the majority, with Latinos making up about 47 percent of its population.
This shift is occurring about seven months later than anticipated, primarily due to lower Latino births.
This new projection has left many in California wondering the implications of the shift in the largest racial/ethnic group, and if this will be something good or bad for the state, especially with our proximity to Mexico.
Many people assume the growth in population is a result of higher immigration rates. But, according to analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, births have surpassed immigration as the main reason of the growth in the U.S. Hispanic populations. For example, from 1980 to 1990 there was a growth of the Mexican-American population by 2.7 million births and 3.1 million new immigrants, but from 2000 to 2010 there was a shift and the population grew by 7.2 million from births, while only immigration accounted for only 4.2 million new people.
“This surge in Mexican-Americans is attributed to the large immigration rates that brought more than 10 million to the U.S. from Mexico since 1970,” Pew’s study states.
There has been a large decline in immigrant arrivals from Mexico, declining about 60 percent from 2006 to 2010. This decrease is mainly attributed to factors in both the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. has seen a decline in job opportunities as well as increased border enforcement, making the U.S. less tempting to potential immigrants, while Mexico has recently had strong economic growth that may have reduced the factors that led to immigration.
This supports the idea that in recent years there has been less immigration from Mexico and other close Latin countries and an increase in natural born citizens. But many who worry about immigration are concerned with the rate at which immigrants make their way to the U.S. illegally.
According to a report written by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, the number of “unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12 million, but has fallen since then mainly due to less immigration from Mexico.”
In 2010, unauthorized or illegal immigrants from Mexico made up about 58 percent of all unauthorized immigrants. The most recent Pew Hispanic Center estimate of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. is 11.1 million in 2011, which hasn’t seen much fluctuation.
There are families who immigrate illegally, and there are also children who are born in the U.S. to unauthorized parents.
According to a Pew Research Center study, in “2010 there were one million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. under the age of 18, as well as 4.5 million U.S. born children whose parents were unauthorized.”
This shift can ultimately be considered good for California because according to California’s Department of Finance, “California will remain one of the younger states for the next 20 years due to California’s diversity and because of its role as state for immigration.”
This conclusion is determined from a series of projections that demonstrate how the age of different racial/ethnic groups will change over time. The Department of Finance determined that there were nearly 10 million Baby Boomers in 1990, the majority being white. But now the white baby-boomer population is aging into retirement and will most likely retire in the next two decades. As this happens, there will be a lower percentage of the working-age population that is white and a larger percentage will be Latino. The younger Latino population will be able to help maintain the potential for growth of the labor force and the economy in California.
As the shift of Latinos becoming the largest single racial/ethnic group continues, there is a lot of evidence that supports the idea that California will remain strong and continue to grow economically. This shift has been predicted to occur for quite some time and will ultimately leave California in an advantageous position.