Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Nearly three-fourths of US Latinos are citizens, and other handy facts

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A post yesterday highlighted the basics from a new report exploring the characteristics of the nation's Latino population: Where most of them live (more than one in ten are in the Los Angeles-Long Beach metro area), who they are (65 percent nationwide are of Mexican birth or descent), and where the highest concentration of them is (Miami), along with a list of the top ten regions in the country that have the most Latino residents.

But the report where these numbers are found, released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center, goes much deeper than that. It also digs into socioeconomics, citizenship, education and other factors, and presents stark divisions that exist among the nation's most Latino cities and regions.

There's quite a bit packed into it, so I'll be breaking down the details in different posts. Among today's highlights: The Texas metro regions of San Antonio and Corpus Christi are among those boasting the highest share of Latinos who are native-born, are U.S. citizens, and are fluent English speakers. In terms of education, though, Latinos in some parts of Central California fare the worst, with roughly half lacking a high school diploma, and only a miniscule number holding college degrees.

And one important statistic that many aren't aware of: Nearly three-fourths, or 74 percent, of all Latinos in the nation are U.S. citizens, either by birth or by naturalization. Read on.

Native-born vs. foreign-born: The emerging second-generation nation (and third, and fourth, and fifth) is perhaps best represented by Corpus Christi, Texas, where only 7 percent of the Latino population is foreign born. Among the top ten metro areas in the country with the biggest Latino populations, San Antonio ranks first here: Only 18 percent of San Antonio's Latino population was born outside the country. Miami is the opposite, with 67 percent born abroad. Altogether, 37 percent of the U.S. Latino population is foreign born.

Age: Among the top ten metro areas, the oldest Latino population in the country is in Miami, where 39 is the median age and 15 percent of the population is 65 or older. Save for New York, where the media age is 30, all other regions in the top ten have median ages in the twenties (in L.A. it's 28).

High school education: There are some big disparities here. Overall, the share of U.S. Latinos 25 and older without a high school diploma is 38 percent, vs. 14 percent of the general population. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood-Pompano Beach metro region in Florida has the smallest share of adult Latinos without a high school diploma (17 percent). In stark contrast, half the adult Latino population in parts of Central California lacks a diploma: About 52 percent of Latino adults in Salinas-Sea Side-Monterey, Calif. don't have high school diplomas, followed by 51 percent of those in Visalia-Tulare-Porterville and Bakersfield.

College education: The same trend applies here, with Central California at the bottom in terms of Latinos with college degrees and South Florida at the top. More than one in four Latinos in the Fort Lauderdale metro area has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Meanwhile, the largest share of Latinos over 25 who lack a college degree is found in Visalia and Bakersfield. In both metro areas, just 5 percent of Latino adults hold a bachelor’s degree. 

English proficiency: The most proficient English speakers among the U.S. Latino population are found in Texas and New Mexico. Among the top ten regions, San Antonio has the biggest share of Latinos age five and older who speak only English at home or otherwise speak it "very well" (81 percent). This is exceeded in Albuquerque, New Mexico (85 percent) and Corpus Christi, Texas (84 percent).  In Miami, however, only 52 percent of the Latino population over age five meets the same level of English proficiency.

Citizenship: Among the top ten regions, the San Antonio metro area has by far the highest rate of U.S. citizenship among Latinos (88 percent). It is followed by Riverside, Calif., where 78 percent of Latinos are citizens. Both are above the national share, which is 74 percent. Miami, home to a large number of foreign-born, has the lowest share of U.S. citizens (66 percent) among the top ten metro regions.

Tomorrow I'll get into the economic factors, including household income, home ownership, health coverage and poverty rates as experienced by Latinos throughout the country. 

One highlight in advance: While Texas is home to a large share of U.S. citizens and fluent English speakers, it also has the nation's poorest Latino community: The Brownsville, Texas metro region has the highest rate of poverty among Latinos in general and among Latino children. More to come.

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