Latinos now trail Asians in U.S. population growth rate thanks to lingering effects from the Great Recession.
A new study from the Pew Research Center found the birth rate among Latina women slowed over the last decade, as did the influx of undocumented immigrants crossing over. The country’s Hispanic population grew 5.8 percent annually in the 1990s but hovered near 2.4 percent growth between 2010 and 2014.
Part of the reason is economic distress. Like much of the nation, the Hispanic community struggled through unemployment or poverty, watching as the net worth of Hispanic households fell from $18,359 in 2005 to just $6,325 a year later.
Birth rates among Hispanic women aged 15 to 44 were about 98.3 births per 1,000 women in 2006. By 2014, it dropped by nearly 25.
Pew researchers Renee Stepler and Mark Hugo Lopez noted that immigration was “the principal driver of Hispanic population growth” over the last four decades, until it stagnated. A 2015 poll of Mexicans who emigrated back south found 25 percent did so for employment reasons; either they could not find work in the U.S. or they lined something up in Mexico.
“Immigration, which in the 1980s and 1990s was the principal driver of Hispanic population growth, began to slow in the mid-2000. And, in the case of Mexico, immigration has now reversed back toward Mexico since 2009,” researchers wrote.
The country’s undocumented immigration population is often estimated between 11 and 14 million, though the figure has wavered over the last eight years.
Despite anti-immigration rhetoric during 2012 and 2016 presidential elections and increased deportation efforts from the Obama administration, the biggest turn-off for undocumented individuals remains the economy.
Where Latinos Choose to Live
Latinos still account for about 54 percent of the nation’s population growth this century. While metropolises in New York and California are attractive to newcomers, many are settling in rural, non-metropolitan areas with better job prospects.
“General population growth and economic opportunities in places that traditionally had few Latinos led to dispersal of the Latino population across the U.S. beginning in the 1990s, just as Latino population growth was accelerating,” the study read.
South and Southwest border states still account for the largest share of Hispanic population growth, and they increasingly steer towards ethnic cities like Los Angeles, Houston, and Miami, but the fastest-growing counties aren’t in conspicuous areas.
Williams County in North Dakota saw 367 percent population growth between 2007 and 2014, followed by Stark County (294 percent) and Ward County (117 percent). The population Luzerne County in Pennsylvania grew 91 percent. In Beadle County, South Dakota it was 85 percent. Burleigh County, another North Dakotan block, rose 82 percent.
“Counties in Southern states have long dominated the list of the fast-growing Hispanic counties. This was especially true from 2000 to 2007, when eight of the 10 fastest growing counties were in the South,” researchers wrote.
They added that North Dakota’s Latino population nearly doubled from 2007 to 2014, “making it the state with highest Hispanic growth rate (though it ranks 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia by Hispanic population).”
U.S.-born Hispanics outnumber foreign-born Hispanics in every territory save two: Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Texas, California, New York, Florida, and Illinois combined house 65 percent of the total population.
How Changing Trends Affect Future Elections
A record 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote come November, about 3.2 million of which came of age since 2012.
In a decade or so, where they live may directly affect how electoral votes are distributed.
“The growing and dispersing Latino population has led to rising electoral influence of Latino voters in recent elections as the number eligible to vote has grown in many battleground states such as Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and North Carolina, even though Latino voters are largely concentrated in non-battleground states,” researchers wrote.
Even if each of these states’ fast-growing Latino population was eligible to vote, they likely wouldn’t. At least not this election cycle. It will take decades for the Hispanic community to impact Red states, if only because voter turnout was significantly lower than other groups in 2012 and again during 2014 midterm elections.
Latino voters today are more informed than ever. Their influence on Election Day, however, is relative to state politics.
North and South Dakota are reliably Republican states. So is Utah, though a June Salt Lake Tribune poll showed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in a virtual tie with Republican contender Donald Trump.
Arizona, a state known for stringent immigration proposals, has multiple polls with Clinton trailing Trump by as few as two percentage points. Georgia, a southern state that hasn’t voted Democrat since Bill Clinton won office, is a deadlock, according to an NBC News poll. And Florida, the perennial swing state, has Clinton up in at least three of five recent polls.
The common thread is a prevalent Latino presence. Change will come gradually amid slowing population growth.