Hispanics Extend Reach Beyond Enclaves

Miriam Jordan, Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2013

South Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans are settling among the existing U.S. population more readily than Mexicans, the nation’s largest Hispanic group, a trend with implications for politics, the economy and other areas of daily life.

In another finding of a study of U.S. Hispanics to be released Wednesday, the number of Hondurans, Guatemalans and others has been growing more rapidly than Mexicans, who still make up six in 10 U.S. Hispanics, since 1990. In all, 50.5 million U.S. residents trace their origin to Spanish-speaking countries.

South Americans, including Argentines and Venezuelans, have the highest levels of education and are the least segregated from other ethnic groups in the U.S., even if they are more recent arrivals, according to the study.

Every group except Mexicans has experienced a substantial decline in residential segregation from whites since 1990, according to the most common measure of segregation, the “dissimilarity index,” which measures the distribution of two groups in a neighborhood and how much one group is over- or under-represented in relation to the other.

“One would have thought that the newer groups, which are faster-growing, would be the ones maintaining boundaries and that Mexicans, with so many second and later generations, would be dispersing,” said John Logan, co-author of the report, “Hispanics in the United States: Not Only Mexicans.”

Instead, “some strong boundaries faced by smaller groups seem to be breaking down over time,” said Mr. Logan. {snip}

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“Shared language is important, but it’s also important to be aware that most Mexicans are not immigrants, South Americans have relatively high education and income, and that many of the least-advantaged Hispanics are the rapidly growing number of immigrants from Central America,” Mr. Logan said.

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There were nearly 32 million Mexicans in the U.S. in 2010, according to the census. The country also was home to four million Central Americans, triple the number in 1990, and 2.8 million South Americans, including Colombians, Ecuadorians and Brazilians, up from about a million two decades earlier.

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The study found that Cubans and South Americans reside in neighborhoods where the median household income and share of those who are college-educated, at 30%, is on a par with neighborhoods inhabited by whites.

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Distance from country of origin plays a role. South Americans are less likely to be economic migrants—they often are in the U.S. to further their education or flee unrest—than Mexican and Central Americans, who usually reach the U.S. by land.

“There are lots of poor people in Argentina,” said Jacob Vigdor, a Duke University immigration scholar. “But to get here all the way from the cone of South America, you need to have a certain income level.”

All told, there is a long way to go before Latinos are fully incorporated into mainstream society. “Only South Americans seem to be reaching what I would call modest integration,” said Mr. Logan.

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