August 26, 2008

A Profile of Hispanic Public School Students

One-in-Five and Growing Fast:

I. Overview

The number of Hispanic students in the nation’s public schools nearly doubled from 1990 to 2006, accounting for 60% of the total growth in public school enrollments over that period. There are now approximately 10 million Hispanic students in the nation’s public kindergartens and its elementary and high schools; they make up about one-in-five public school students in the United States. In 1990, just one-in-eight public school students were Hispanic.

Strong growth in Hispanic enrollment is expected to continue for decades, according to a recently released U.S. Census Bureau population projection. The bureau projects that the Hispanic school-age population will increase by 166% by 2050 (to 28 million from 11 million in 2006), while the non-Hispanic school-age population will grow by just 4% (to 45 million from 43 million) over this same period.1 In 2050, there will be more school-age Hispanic children than school-age non-Hispanic white children.

While Hispanics account for 20% of public school students nationally, their share of enrollment is greater in several states. In 2006 Hispanics were about half of all public school students in California, up from 36% in 1990. They were more than 40% of enrollments in three additional states (Arizona, New Mexico and Texas) and between 20% and 40% of all public school students in five states (Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Florida and New York). Overall, Hispanics are the largest minority group in the public schools in 22 states.

Using data from the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS), this report presents information on the demographic characteristics of Hispanic students in public schools. It compares Hispanic public school students with their non-Hispanic counterparts. The large sample sizes available in the ACS also enable detailed comparison of Hispanic students across generational groups.

Highlighted Characteristics of Hispanic Public School Students


Language Skills

About this Report

The data contained in this fact sheet are based on Pew Hispanic Center tabulations of the Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey. The ACS is the largest household survey in the United States, with a sample of about 3 million addresses, and was designed to provide estimates of the size and characteristics of the resident population.

The specific data sources for this fact sheet are the 1% sample of the 2006 ACS Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) and the 5% sample of the 1990 Census IPUMS provided by the University of Minnesota. For more information about the IPUMS, including variable definition and sampling error, please visit To learn more about the sampling strategy and associated error of the 2006 American Community Survey, please refer to

Numbers presented in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest whole number. When two categories are discussed jointly in the text, the number presented is the summation of the two non-rounded data points. As a result, some of the numbers in the text differ from numbers in figures by one percentage point. Where this occurs, the number cited in the text should be regarded as the most accurate.

A Note on Terminology

The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are used interchangeably in this report.

This report uses the following definitions of the first, second and third-and-higher generations:

First generation: Born outside the United States, its territories or possessions. Can be naturalized U.S. citizens, legal immigrants or undocumented immigrants. Also referred to as “foreign born” and “immigrants.”

Second generation: Born in the United States with at least one foreign-born parent. U.S. citizens by birth. Included in “native-born” students.

Third-and-higher generations: Born in the United States with both parents also born in the United States. U.S. citizens by birth. Included in “native-born” students.

Unless otherwise stated, the term “student” is used to refer to a student of any age enrolled in a public kindergarten or an elementary school or high school.

  1. The U.S. Census Bureau projects the size of the population age 5 to 17. The growth of public school enrollment will not exactly match the growth of the school-age population because some children are not enrolled in school, some children attend private schools and some adults are enrolled in public schools.
  2. Established Hispanic states are those that have had growth of less than 200% among Hispanics but had a population increase of more than 200,000 Hispanics from 1980 to 2000. New Hispanic states are those that have had growth of more than 200% among Hispanics and an increase of 200,000 or more Hispanic residents over that period. Emerging Hispanics states are those that have had growth of greater than 200% among Hispanics but had a population increase of less than 200,000 Hispanics. For more information on these definitions, please see Hispanics: A People in Motion.
  3. Origin is self-reported and is defined by the Census Bureau as ancestry, lineage, heritage, nationality group or country of birth. For example, people of Mexican origin may be either born in Mexico or of Mexican origin.
  4. A student is defined as speaking English with difficulty if the student speaks a language other than English in the home and speaks English less than “very well.”
  5. First-generation students are foreign born. For second-and-higher generation students, generation is determined using the citizenship status of one or both parents. The generation of a native-born student who does not live with at least one parent cannot be determined.