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Hispanic Voices

By Jose-Pablo Fernandez

When I wrote the essay “Hispanics by Mid-Century,” I presented population charts in a different way than the one often used by demographers and the U.S. Census, which “stack” each ethnicity’s data, making it difficult for the casual reader to grasp the actual impact of that data. Instead, I plotted the data as percentage of the total population for each group from 1940 to 2010, as shown in the figure below. It clearly shows two symmetrical but opposing curves where the percentage for the White (Non-Hispanic) population has been decreasing, while that for the Hispanic population has been steadily growing.

Most interesting is the curve depicting the gap between the two populations curves. Despite the demographic impact of three wars and President Reagan’s amnesty program, the gap curve is an almost-perfect parabola. I hypothesized that a unique mathematical equation might predict when the gap between the two would actually disappear, indicating populations equal in size. To obtain such an equation, I contacted Dr. Donald Allen, professor of mathematics at Texas A&M University, who not only devised a formulation but proposed an in-depth analysis of the data that we are currently working on.

Dr. Allen’s equation aligns perfectly with the Census data for the 70-year period. His equation indicates that “zero-gap” –when the number of Hispanics in the U.S. will match the number of Whites– will occur some time between 2044 and 2045; interestingly, this is approximately 100 years after V-Day, when the U.S. White population was recorded as 88 percent of the total, and the Hispanic population (known then as “Mexicans”) was less than 2 percent of the total. This zero-gap date also occurs just five years after Samuel Huntington’s own prediction.[1]

How valid is this calculation? Dr. Allen warns that all such forecasts are risky, given the highly disruptive and unpredictable nature of political, socioeconomic, and health factors on population growth. Sociologist Richard Alba, meanwhile, argues for the “likely persistence of a white majority,” noting that projected changes in the racial and ethnic composition of a society depend on one’s rules for classifying people, and contending that the Census Bureau’s parameters of classification may unrealistically yield the smallest possible estimate of the future size of the U.S. White population.[2]

Nonetheless, the irrefutable fact is that the Hispanic population is growing faster than the White population to become an increasingly significant player in America. According to the U.S. Census from 2000 to 2010 the White population grew 1.2% while the Hispanic population grew 43%. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the rate of growth of the Hispanic population is “cooling,”[3] but if we look at the data, it still grows at a disproportionate rate compared to other racial or ethnic groups. Not only that, estimates show that Hispanics, with a median age of 29 years, are younger than other racial or ethnic groups. By comparison, the median age for Blacks is 34, 43 for Whites, and 36 for Asians.

Given the projected growth of the Hispanic population over the next quarter century, compromising the future economic prospects of Hispanics by underinvesting in their education will likely compromise the nation’s future as well.[4]

For America’s sake, we need to find effective solutions to mitigate the risk factors which are currently affecting Hispanics’: English proficiency, parental engagement, educational attainment, civic engagement, quality care, and economic growth. A good way to start would be for states to increase budgets allocated to Title 1 particularly in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas where Hispanics are already the majority at public schools.

Because of their large numbers Hispanics are transforming the United States socially and culturally and will affect American society in many ways. Their political voices are already being heard, and politicians realize that very soon they won’t be able to win elections without the Hispanic vote.


[1] The Hispanic Challenge. Samuel P. Huntington. Foreign Policy. March/April 2004

[2] The Likely Persistence of a White Majority. Richard Alba. The American Prospect. 2016

[3] Hispanic population reaches record 55 million, but growth has cooled. June 2015

[4] Multiple Origins, Uncertain Destinies; Hispanics and the American Future. National Research Council. 2006

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