By Karen Aho and Robin Lundh of the American Immigration Council
Today, Hispanic Americans form the largest ethnic group in the United States. The value of Hispanic Americans to the makeup of the United States—demographically, culturally, and economically—has grown every year. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we look at the most recent data to highlight the important contributions of Hispanic Americans in the United States.
The annual observance was first set for the National Hispanic Heritage Week which includes September 15 and September 16 to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations of several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico. These countries figure significantly in the ancestry of many Hispanic Americans. In 1988, Congress expanded the annual observance to 31 days—September 15 to October 15.
With more than 62.5 million Hispanic Americans recorded in the 2021 American Community Survey, they now comprise 18.8% of the population. Hispanic households collectively earn more than ever—$1.4 trillion in 2021—allowing them to pay more than $333 billion in taxes. They also fill workforce gaps in industries that face severe labor shortages, such as agriculture, hospitality, construction, and healthcare, making them vital to the U.S. economic engine.
Although now eclipsed by Asians as the fastest growing group, Hispanics nonetheless remain a fast-growing population. Our analysis of the 2021 American Community Survey data finds that between 2016 and 2021, the Hispanic population increased by 9.0%, or 5.1 million people. Meanwhile, the total U.S. population increased by just 2.7%, or 8.8 million people, meaning that 58.6% of U.S. population growth during that time was due to a rise in the Hispanic population.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the growth among the Hispanic population in the United States has been among those born in the United States, rather than from immigration. From 2016 to 2021, 93.9% of the increase in the Hispanic population was attributable to those who were born in the United States. The foreign-born Hispanic population increased by only 1.6%, or by 315,000 people. The U.S.-born Hispanic population, meanwhile, increased by 12.8%, or 4.8 million people.
The continued growth of the Hispanic population has come in tandem with increasing diversity in their geographic distribution.
No longer concentrated strictly in border regions or in big cities, Hispanic Americans today increasingly live all over the country. In fact, the states with the steepest increases in the Hispanic population between 2016 and 2021 are in regions that until recently had relatively few Hispanic residents. These include North Dakota, with 31.9% growth; Montana, with 29.2% growth; Maine, with 27.2% growth; and New Hampshire, with 25.6% growth.
Hispanic immigrants increasingly hail from a wider range of Latin American countries than has been the case in past decades, further adding to the diversity of the Hispanic population in the United States. While more than half of Hispanic immigrants still come from Mexico, that share is declining, from 58.5% of foreign-born Hispanics in 2016 to 53.6% in 2021.
Meanwhile, Hispanic immigrants from several other countries made up a growing share of the Hispanic immigrant population. These countries include El Salvador (7.1% in 2021), the Dominican Republic (6.3%), Guatemala (5.5%), Colombia (4.3%), Honduras (3.8%), Venezuela (2.6%), Ecuador (2.4%), and Perú (2.2%). The share of Cuban immigrants slightly dropped from 6.5% in 2016 to 6.4% in 2021.
Income and Taxes
Hispanic households hold considerable earning and consumer power. In 2021, Hispanic residents of the United States earned $1.4 trillion and paid $210.3 billion in federal taxes, contributions that helped sustain social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare. They also paid $123.2 billion in combined state and local taxes, contributing to vital public services like public education, law enforcement, and garbage collection.
After taxes, Hispanic households held $1.1 trillion in spending power, money that is recirculated throughout the economy and benefits other American businesses.
Hispanic workers make up significant shares of some of the most important industries in the U.S. economy. In 2021, Hispanic workers made up more than four in 10 workers providing landscaping, food, and building services. They also made up more than one-third of workers in agricultural and forestry support, crop production, produce preservation and specialty food manufacturing, warehousing and storage, and carpet and rug mills.
One reason Hispanic Americans play an outsized role in the workforce is that they are more likely to be of prime working age, between the ages of 25 and 54. In 2022, the median age of Hispanic Americans in the labor force was 38.7, compared with 41.8 for the U.S. workforce as a whole.
As candidates ramp up for the 2024 elections, it’s important to note that Hispanic American now make up considerable shares of the electorate. Nationwide, there were 31.9 million Hispanic eligible voters in 2021, a 48% increase from the 21.5 million in 2010.
Furthermore, a 2022 analysis from UCLA found that each year there are an additional 1 million Hispanic Americans that reach voting age. At a state level, Hispanic Americans accounted for more than 3 of every 10 eligible voters in New Mexico, California, and Texas, and at least two of every 10 eligible voters in Arizona, Florida, and Nevada.
That said, Hispanic voters, like the Hispanic population, are also increasingly diverse in their political viewpoints. Although nationally Hispanic voters continued to back Democratic candidates, the Hispanic electorate isn’t a monolith.
Beyond the statistics, Hispanic Americans’ significant presence in the United States helps make the country stronger and more vibrant, benefitting all Americans.