A cheat sheet for the news.
Jan. 5 1997 3:30 AM


By Karenna Gore


The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2010, Hispanics will outnumber blacks. This will make them America's largest ethnic minority. In the 1996 election, as the general voter turnout neared a record low, the Hispanic turnout soared, providing the margin of victory in several key elections. Who are Hispanics, where do they come from, and what is the political impact of this rapidly growing population?

The Census Bureau officially adopted the term "Hispanic" in 1970, applying it to any U.S. resident whose ancestors lived in Spain or a Spanish colony. (The term itself is derived from "Hispania," which was the Roman Empire's name for the Iberian peninsula.)

The bureau's geography-based definition, which lumps together blacks, whites, and those of mixed race, has provoked a heated debate. Some complain that the categorization falsely homogenizes a diverse people under a label linked to Spanish imperialism. These critics argue for the term "Latino," because it denotes self-definition, allows for more subcategorization by nationality, and alludes to distant cultural origins rather than a painful colonial past. "Latino" is Spanish for "Latin"; Latin was the official language of Hispania, and "Latin America" was coined by geographers in the 18th century to describe the New World colonies of Portugal and Spain.

Some Mexican-Americans refer to themselves as "Chicanos," a pejorative term from the 1920s for lower-class Mexican immigrants that was embraced in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Mexican-Americans seeking a new political identity. The Chicano movement celebrated the Indian roots of Mexican culture. As the "Chicano" label fell out of vogue, many of its supporters joined forces with the "Latino" camp, accusing the "Hispanic" partisans of grouping Mexican-Americans under their rubric to inflate their numbers.

Today, the debate boils down to personal preference, shown by clear regional patterns: In California, "Latino" is generally the preferred term. In Florida, Texas, and New Mexico, "Hispanic" is more common. In the Northeast, it's a tie.


T he rapidly growing Hispanic population is resulting in the "browning of America." Over the last 16 years, the Hispanic population has grown 93 percent--from 14.6 million to 28.2 million. (The total U.S. population has grown 17 percent, from 226.5 million to 265.8 million.) By the year 2050, the Census Bureau estimates, Hispanics will constitute 24.5 percent of the U.S. population, up from today's 10 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of Asian-Americans will grow from 3.3 percent to 8.2 percent, and the percentage of African-Americans will rise only slightly, from 12 percent to 13.6 percent. Midway through the next century, only 53 percent of the U.S. population will be non-Hispanic white, down from 74 percent today.

The growth of the Hispanic population is due to high birth rates and immigration. Hispanic birth rates are significantly higher than average, because of Hispanics' lower median age, higher poverty levels, and enduring cultural values that place a premium on large families. The Census Bureau estimates annual net immigration--legal and illegal--of 820,000, with the large majority being Hispanic.

Hispanics live in every state, but their numbers are greatest in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and New Mexico. Of the Hispanics living in these states, 64 percent (concentrated in the Southwest) trace their roots to Mexico; 15 percent (relatively evenly distributed) to Central and South America; 10 percent (concentrated in New York) to Puerto Rico, and 5 percent (concentrated in Florida) to Cuba.

Although Hispanic voters account for only 5 percent of the electorate, they are significant voting blocks in key states and, most of the time, they vote Democrat. In the recent presidential election, Hispanic voter turnout increased 60 percent in Texas, 40 percent in California, and 10 percent in Florida, with roughly three out of four of all Hispanic votes going to President Clinton (15 percentage points above his 1992 showing). In Arizona, where a heavy Hispanic turnout was 10-to-1 for Clinton, Democrats won for the first time since 1948.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Naomi Klein Is Wrong

Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.

The Strange History of Wives Gazing at Their Husbands in Political Ads


See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 1:38 PM Mad About Modi
 Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.

Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 30 2014 11:42 AM Listen to Our September Music Roundup Hot tracks from a cooler month, exclusively for Slate Plus members.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 12:42 PM How to Save Broken Mayonnaise
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 11:55 AM The Justice Department Is Cracking Down on Sales of Spyware Used in Stalking
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.