December 27, 2004

Dispersal and Concentration: Patterns of Latino Residential Settlement

III. Methods

The findings we present here are derived from an analysis of 1990 and 2000 Summary File 3 data from the United States Census Bureau.2 A neighborhood in this report refers to what the Census Bureau terms a census tract. About 4,200 people live in an average census tract which makes it small enough to give a picture of the kinds of people who live in close proximity to each other. We define a “majority-Latino” neighborhood as a tract which is more than 50 percent Hispanic. If a tract does not fit the definition of a majority-Latino neighborhood we refer to it as a “minority-Latino” neighborhood.3 We use the summary data that characterize the residents of both neighborhood types to look for differences between Latinos who live in concentrated Latino neighborhoods and those who do not. No data source other than the decennial census permits an examination of population characteristics in such small geographic areas, and as such there is no reliable means to assess trends since the 2000 count.

At a higher geographic level, we examine dispersal patterns by dividing states into traditional Hispanic states and new settlement states. We define new settlement states as those in which the Hispanic population grew by at least 200,000 between 1980 and 2000, and roughly tripled in size. New settlement states include Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Massachusetts. Traditional Hispanic states include California, Texas, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Florida and New Mexico. In 2000, nearly 90 percent of the nation’s Latinos live in either traditional Hispanic or new settlement states. As in the analysis of neighborhood data, we use the summary data that characterize the residents to see how Latinos who live in traditional states differ from those who do not.

  1. Summary File 3 consists of 813 detailed tables of Census 2000 social, economic and housing characteristics compiled from a sample of approximately 19 million housing units (about 1 in 6 households) that received the Census 2000 long-form questionnaire. Data from 1990 have been converted to match 2000 boundaries. More detailed information about the correspondence techniques can be found by accessing the Geolytics website. ( The 1990 data converted to 2000 geographic boundaries are not considered official census data.
  2. Appendix 1 provides tallies for majority-Latino and minority-Latino tracts.