The Changing U.S. Hispanic Population
National trends shaping demographics — and ministry
Hispanics have accounted for half the population growth in the U.S. since 2000, but subtle demographic shifts are taking place within this group, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center.
As of 2016, there were nearly 58 million Hispanics in the U.S. — the largest number to date. The population has climbed steadily since 1970, when fewer than 10 million Hispanics lived in the U.S. In 2000, the U.S. Hispanic population was approximately 36 million; by 2010, the number had climbed to 51 million.
However, Pew reports the growth rate is slowing as fewer immigrants enter the U.S. from Mexico and the fertility rate among Hispanic women declines. With an average increase of 2 percent annually, Hispanics are still the nation’s second-fastest growing racial or ethnic group. (Asians are the fastest-growing group, increasing at 3 percent per year.)
The five largest Hispanic groups by origin are Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Salvadorans, Cubans and Dominicans.
A greater share of Hispanics are now born in the United States. In 2000, 60 percent of the nation’s Hispanics were U.S. born, compared to 66 percent today.
The number of Hispanics age 5 and older who speak Spanish at home is at an all-time high (37 million, up from 25 million in 2000), but so is the number of Hispanics who are English proficient (35 million, compared to 19 million in 2000). The number of Hispanics who speak only English at home has doubled, from 7 million in 2000 to 14 million today.
Hispanics are increasingly seeking higher education. Some 40 percent have some postsecondary education, compared to 30 percent in 2000. More than half (52 percent) of U.S.-born Hispanics have attended college, compared to 41 percent in 2000. And 27 percent of foreign-born Hispanics have some college experience, a 5 percent increase since 2000.
Hispanics are increasingly seeking higher education.
Hispanics represent the youngest of the nation’s largest racial and ethnic groups, with a median age of 28 (compared to a median age of 34 for blacks, 36 for Asians, and 43 for whites). However, the overall U.S. Hispanic population is growing older. In 2000, the median age of U.S. Hispanics was just 25.
California still has the largest Hispanic population in the U.S., but Hispanic representation in other areas is growing at a faster rate. Several states have a growing Hispanic population that is outpacing that of California, including Texas, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, Colorado and Georgia.
Of more than 3.2 million U.S. adherents in the Assemblies of God, 718,785 were Hispanic as of 2016 — up from 428,747 in 2001. Hispanics make up the second-largest racial and ethnic group in the U.S. AG, accounting for 22 percent. Whites make up a small and shrinking majority, at 58 percent, compared to 71 percent in 2001. The percentages of blacks (now 10 percent), Asians/Pacific islanders (5 percent), and other/mixed races (4 percent) have all increased since 2001.
Dennis Rivera, director of the Office of Hispanic Relations for the Assemblies of God, says churches must adapt their ministry models to reach a changing Hispanic population.
“The Hispanic church can no longer offer ministry in Spanish only, and Hispanic church leadership is ministering to an increasingly college-educated population,” Rivera says. “A Spanish-language-only church will become a terminal church, unless the leadership recognizes the needs of the next generation. Bilingual services will not be enough, as not everyone can endure hearing two languages.”
Rivera says Hispanic churches should consider offering multiple services — at least one in English and another in Spanish. He says Hispanic people across the nation are ready to hear and respond to the gospel.
“In the Hispanic population, there is a convergence of being ethnic and a Millennial,” Rivera says. “Both groups are collective in culture, hungry for truth and open to seeking spiritual experiences, making the potential for explosive church growth.”