PALM BEACH, Fla. — A new national survey shows that the Latino population in the U.S. rose 47 percent from 2000 to 2011 and that the rate of growth in Florida was even higher — 62 percent.
The Pew Research Hispanic Center in Washington, a respected demographic research institute, found that the Latino population in the U.S. during those 11 years swelled from 35.2 million to 51.9 million. The total U.S. population as of 2011 was 311.6 million, meaning that 16.7 percent of people living in the U.S. were Latino, compared to 12.5 percent in 2000.
And that percentage is expected to increase. Of all births in the U.S. in 2011, 23.1 percent were to Latino women.
The 2011 numbers are based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which surveyed 3 percent of the households in the U.S. and extrapolated total numbers from those interviews. The households were contacted during 2011 and the numbers were compiled over the past year. The 2000 numbers were based on the census from that year.
The center says its figures include undocumented people. There are thought to be 11 million to 12 million undocumented people in the U.S., 80 percent of whom are Latino.
The growing numbers of Latinos, especially the increase in Latino voters, is affecting U.S. political life. Democratic President Barack Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney for the presidency in November, in part by winning the Latino vote by 71-26 percent.
Republicans’ hard-line position against the legalization of undocumented residents cost them many Latino votes. GOP members of Congress have since begun negotiating with Democrats on a comprehensive immigration law overhaul, to improve relations with Latino voters.
By far the largest Latino community in the U.S. is people of Mexican descent, with 33.5 million, or 64.5 percent of all Latinos. Many people of Mexican descent come from families that have lived in the U.S. for many generations. Two-thirds of all persons of Mexican descent in the U.S. were born here.
Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens from birth, number 4.9 million; Salvadorans, 1.95 million; Cubans, 1.88 million. Guatemalans, who have a large community in Palm Beach County, number 1.22 million nationwide.
Not only did the number of Latinos and their percentage of the U.S. population increase, but the percentage of Latinos in the U.S. who are U.S.-born increased from 59.9 percent to 63.8 percent. Latinos have the lowest median age of any population group, 27, compared to 33 for blacks 36 for Asians; and 42 for whites.
Florida is home to the third-highest total of Latinos: 4.35 million, or 22.8 percent of the state’s population. It is far behind California, which includes 14.4 million Latinos, and Texas with 9.8 million. Both those states are 38.1 percent Latino.
The break down by country of origin is very different for Florida than for the nation as a whole. Among Florida Latinos, 35 percent are of Cuban descent, 26 percent Mexican and 23 percent Puerto Rican.
Charles Zelden, a Nova Southeastern University political scientist, said his campus has a growing number of Latino students.
“We are the future of America,” he said. “The Latin population is growing even faster than the common wisdom would assume.”
Zelden said the report and the election outcome make it evident why the Republican Party has made a Latino, Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, the face of the party.
“It makes sense, although given the numbers, it would make even more sense if he were Mexican and not Cuban,” Zelden said.
He wondered whether newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is already making his voice heard on Capitol Hill, may eventually challenge Rubio as the Latino face of the party.
At least 10 states saw increases in their Latino populations of more than 100 percent since 2000. In the South, Georgia and North Carolina saw large increases and both now have more than 800,000 Latino residents.
The survey shows that educational levels of Latinos rose over the 11 years studied. The high school dropout rate among Latinos ages 16 to 19 plummeted from 17.5 percent in 2000 to 6.8 percent in 2011. The percentage of Latinos 18 to 24 enrolled in college rose sharply, from 20 percent to 32.9 percent in the 11 years.
The median income of a Latino household in 2011 was $39,000. That compared to $67,000 for Asian households, $54,400 for whites and $32,600 for blacks.
Thirteen million Latinos live in poverty, 25.9 percent of the total Latino population, and 22 percent receive food stamps. Only blacks have higher rates in those categories, with 27.9 percent living in poverty and 28 percent receiving food stamps.
But Latinos have by far the highest percentage of people without health insurance, 30 percent. That compares to 10.8 percent for whites, 15.4 percent for Asians and 18.6 percent for blacks.