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In the U.S., 1 in 7 Residents Is Latino

June 09, 2005|Solomon Moore | Times Staff Writer

Latinos now account for one of every seven Americans and will continue to drive overall population growth, posing numerous economic challenges and benefits, according to demographers' analysis Wednesday of preliminary U.S. census estimates.

High birthrates and rapid immigration helped swell the nation's Latino population to 41.3 million, with the most recent surge representing half of the country's population growth of 2.9 million between July 2003 and July 2004, census figures show.

The Latino population grew at a rate of 3.6% compared with an overall population increase of 1%, according to the new census report being released today.

Following close behind were Asians, with a growth rate of 3.4%, totaling 14 million. South Asians -- people originating in such countries as India and Pakistan -- accounted for much of that growth.

Next were Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, growing at a rate of 1.7%, totaling 980,000 of the population; blacks at 1.3%, totaling 39.2 million; and non-Hispanic whites at 0.3%, totaling 197.8 million.

The country's population stood at 294 million.

Of the 41.3 million Latinos, 14 million, or roughly a third, are under age 18. These young Latinos pose myriad problems for the nation's already overcrowded schools and overburdened government agencies, some demographic experts said.

The new report also comes when the national debate over illegal immigration has become increasingly heated, with politicians and activists often squaring off about how best to deal with the problem.

Some experts worry that such a large and continuing influx of Latino immigrants means that there will be less of an incentive to assimilate, increasing language barriers and placing a greater burden on social service agencies.

"We don't have the kinds of political institutions that we used to have to deal with large numbers of relatively unskilled, uneducated, economically marginal immigrants," said Peter Skerry, a Boston College professor and expert on Latino immigration.

But Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said young Latinos could be a boon to the U.S. economy if they were educated and well-trained.

"Immigration is providing the growth of our labor market," she said.

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