U.Va. Demographers Shed Light on Mexican-Virginians

November 18, 2009 — Virginians of Mexican descent are among the largest groups of Hispanics in the commonwealth. Mexican-Virginians make up less than 2 percent of the total population, and nearly 60 percent are U.S. citizens, either by birth or by naturalization.

These are some of the findings in the latest edition of Stat Chat, a digest of facts about demographic topics of current interest, released today by the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

A visit several months ago by Anibal Gomez Toledo, head of the Mexican consulate in Washington, prompted Cooper Center demographers to develop an overview of the population of Virginians of Mexican descent, including a focus on educational attainment, labor force participation and occupation. Their other findings, reported in Stat Chat, include:

Most Mexican-Virginian children and seniors were born in the United States;
More than half of Mexican-Virginians speak English very well or speak only English. Thirty percent do not speak English well, or at all;
Higher proportions of Mexican-Virginians (age 16 and older) are in the labor force than Virginians overall;
The proportion of Mexican-Virginians living below the poverty level is almost three times that of Virginians overall;
Forty percent of Mexican-Virginians do not have a high school diploma, compared to 15 percent statewide;
Five percent of Mexican-Virginians serve in the military.

"While Virginians of Mexican descent represent only a small portion of the population, they are actively engaged in the Virginia workforce," said Qian Cai, director of the demographics group. "The predominance in the working-age population of this group suggests a strong migration to Virginia seeking work.

"If these residents stay in Virginia, increased educational attainment and improved English proficiency will be important," she said.

In February 2008, Weldon Cooper Center demographers released a more comprehensive study of the overall Hispanic population in Virginia.