April 29, 2014

Hispanic Nativity Shift

U.S. births drive population growth as immigration stalls

The Share of U.S. Hispanics Who Are Foreign Born is in Decline … as Hispanic Immigrant Population Growth StallsAfter four decades of rapid growth (Brown, 2014), the number of Latino immigrants in the U.S. reached a record 18.8 million in 2010, but has since stalled, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.1 Since 2000, the U.S.-born Latino population continued to grow at a faster rate than the immigrant population. As a result, the foreign-born share of Latinos is now in decline.

Among Hispanic adults in 2012, 49.8% were born in another country, down from a peak of 55% in 2007. Among all Hispanics, the share foreign-born was 35.5% in 2012, down from about 40% earlier in the 2000s.

The slowdown in growth of the Hispanic foreign-born population coincides with a decline in Mexican migration to the U.S. Today, about as many people from Mexico are leaving the U.S. as entering, after four decades of explosive growth (Passel, Cohn and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2012). Many factors have played a role in this trend, including the U.S. economic downturn, stepped-up border enforcement, growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings and demographic and economic changes in Mexico.2

Even as the share of Latino immigrants decreases, rapid growth in the number of Latino births means the Latino population will continue to grow at a steady clip. Latinos are the nation’s largest minority, and one of its fastest growing. Since 1970, the Latino population has increased sixfold, from 9.1 million to 53 million by 2012. It is projected to grow to 129 million by 2060, according to the latest projections from the U.S. Census Bureau (2012). Its share of the U.S. population, currently at 17%, is expected to reach 31% by 2060.

Sources of Hispanic Population Growth, by DecadeBetween 1980 and 2000, immigration was the main driver of Latino population growth as the Latino immigrant population boomed from 4.2 million to 14.1 million. However since 2000, the primary source of Hispanic population growth has swung from immigration to native births. Between 2000 and 2010, there were 9.6 million Hispanic births in the U.S., while the number of newly arrived immigrants was 6.5 million. Overall, U.S. births alone accounted for 60% of Hispanic population growth (births and immigration only3 during the period.4)

These opposing trends—the rise of U.S.-born and the slowdown in immigrant population growth—have begun to reshape the adult Hispanic population. Just as the slowdown in immigration has occurred, the number of U.S.-born Hispanics entering adulthood is beginning to accelerate. Today, some 800,000 young U.S.-born Hispanics enter adulthood each year, but in the coming decades, that number will rise to more than a million annually (Taylor, Gonzalez-Barrera, Passel and Lopez, 2012).

Accompanying this report is a statistical portrait of the nation’s Hispanic population and a statistical portrait of the nation’s foreign-born population. Both are based on the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey and feature detailed characteristics of each population at the national level, as well as state population totals. Topics covered include age, citizenship, origin, language proficiency, living arrangements, marital status, fertility, schooling, health insurance coverage, and employment.

Key findings from the statistical portrait of U.S. Hispanics include:

Marriage and living arrangements

Population by geography

Spanish use at home and English proficiency


Health insurance

About This Report

This report examines nativity trends among the U.S. Hispanic population in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Accompanying this report are demographic and economic profiles of the U.S. Hispanic population and demographic and economic profiles of the U.S. foreign-born population.

This report was written by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Mark Hugo Lopez. The authors thank Jeffrey Passel for editorial guidance. The accompanying statistical profiles were compiled by Anna Brown and Eileen Patten. Anna Brown number checked the report. Caroline Klibanoff was the copy editor. Find related reports online at pewresearch.org/hispanic.

A Note on Terminology

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

The terms “immigrant” and “foreign born” are used interchangeably in this report.

“U.S. born” or “native born” refers to persons who are U.S. citizens at birth, including those born in the United States, Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories and those born abroad to parents at least one of whom was a U.S. citizen.

“Foreign born” refers to persons born outside of the United States, Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories to parents neither of whom was a U.S. citizen.

  1. The data for this report are derived from the 2012 American Community Survey (1% IPUMS) and the 2000, 1990, 1980 and 1970 Censuses (5% IPUMS).
  2. This slowdown in Mexican migration has also impacted the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico (Passel, Cohn and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2013), a population that peaked in 2007 at an estimated 6.9 million but by 2012 had declined to 6 million. Unauthorized immigrants from Mexico make up about half (52%) of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population.
  3. Population growth refers to additions to the U.S. Hispanic population only—U.S. births and immigration. Deaths and emigration are not included.
  4. This same pattern of growth—births exceeding the arrival of new immigrants—exists among Hispanics of Mexican origin, who alone account for nearly two-thirds of all U.S. Hispanics (Pew Research Center, 2011).