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Diverging Demography: Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Contributions to U.S. Population Redistribution and Diversity

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An Erratum to this article was published on 31 August 2016


The substantial growth and geographic dispersion of Hispanics is among the most important demographic trends in recent U.S. demographic history. Our county-level study examines how widespread Hispanic natural increase and net migration has combined with the demographic change among non-Hispanics to produce an increasingly diverse population. This paper uses U.S. Census Bureau data and special tabulations of race/ethnic specific births and deaths from NCHS to highlight the demographic role of Hispanics as an engine of new county population growth and ethnoracial diversity across the U.S. landscape. It highlights key demographic processes—natural increase and net migration—that accounted for 1990–2010 changes in the absolute and relative sizes of the Hispanic and non-Hispanic populations. Hispanics accounted for the majority of all U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2010. Yet, Hispanics represented only 16 % of the U.S. population in 2010. Most previous research has focused on Hispanic immigration; here, we examine how natural increase and net migration among both the Hispanic and non-Hispanic population contribute to the nation’s growing diversity. Indeed, the demographic impact of rapid Hispanic growth has been reinforced by minimal white population growth due to low fertility, fewer women of reproductive age and growing mortality among the aging white population America’s burgeoning Hispanic population has left a large demographic footprint that is magnified by low and declining fertility and increasing mortality among America’s aging non-Hispanic population.

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  1. Prior to the 2000 Census, forms allowed respondents to report only a single race category. Thus, calculating population change for a given racial group between 1990 and 2000 is problematic. The net effect is likely to slightly diminish the change in the non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black population, while significantly increasing the size of the “Other” population, which includes those of two or more races who are not Hispanic as well as Asian, and native peoples. Because Hispanic origin is reported separately from race, it is unclear what impact it might have on Hispanic population change, though it is likely to be minimal. The change in definition is only relevant to the 1990–2000 period and only to population change, not to births and deaths.

  2. The classification of births and deaths by race in the National Center for Health Statistics data used here differs from the procedures used by the Census Bureau. As a result, there are differences in the number of births and deaths classified in a specific category by race/Hispanic origin between the two agencies. NCHS data does not allow for multiple race births or deaths—so all births are classified to one race category, that of the infant’s mother. The race and Hispanic origin of the infant’s father is not considered. Census Bureau estimates allow for births and deaths of two or more races. NCHS consistently show more non-Hispanic white births and fewer Hispanic births than Census data at the national level. Thus, our calculations likely underestimate Hispanic natural increase compared to similar estimates using Census Bureau data. Only NCHS data are available for race/Hispanic origin of births and deaths for counties.

  3. The Great Recession has had a significant impact on U.S. fertility. Overall, births dropped from 4.3 million in 2007 to just under four million in 2013; a decline of 9 %. Hispanic women in their 20 s were especially hard hit by the recession, experiencing the largest fertility rate decline of any group. Because of the precipitous decline in Hispanic fertility rates, Hispanic births declined between 2007 and 2012 despite an increase of nearly 16 % in the number of Hispanic women of prime child-bearing age (Johnson et al. 2014a, b). Should these fertility rate declines continue, it could diminish future Hispanic natural increase.


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Correspondence to Kenneth M. Johnson.

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Johnson, K.M., Lichter, D.T. Diverging Demography: Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Contributions to U.S. Population Redistribution and Diversity. Popul Res Policy Rev 35, 705–725 (2016).

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