U.Va. Study Finds Hispanic Population Varied and Growing

February 25, 2008 – The Hispanic population in Virginia tripled between 1990 and 2006, with more than 460,000 Hispanic citizens and immigrants residing in the commonwealth, according to a study released today by the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Hispanics represent 6 percent of Virginia’s population, and 15 percent of the U.S. population.

“Sixty percent of Hispanics living in Virginia are U.S. citizens, with the majority being U.S.-born, and 13 percent naturalized. Adult Hispanic citizens surpass Virginians overall in both educational attainment and household income,” reports Qian Cai, director of the Cooper Center’s Demographics and Workforce section and author of the study.

“The remaining 40 percent of Virginia’s Hispanics are non-citizen immigrants. They are, in general, less educated, poorer and more likely to lack health insurance than the population overall.”

The study noted that both Hispanic citizens and immigrants are overrepresented in Virginia’s military.

The study of Virginia’s Hispanics analyzes United States Census Bureau data to describe growth trends, characteristics and life in Virginia for resident Hispanics. While Census Bureau surveys ask respondents about their citizenship status, they do not ask non-citizens to clarify their immigration status. As a result, in this study the group called Hispanic immigrants includes authorized immigrants, such as permanent legal residents (green card holders); those holding temporary visas for work, study or visiting; and refugees and asylees. This group also includes unauthorized immigrants, such as those who entered the country without inspection and those who were legally admitted but stayed beyond the date they were required to leave. The Cooper Center study compares Virginia’s Hispanic citizens to Virginia’s Hispanic immigrants, and compares both groups to Virginia’s population overall.

Notable findings from the study include:

•    Virginia’s Hispanic population is concentrated in the state’s three major metropolitan areas and a few selected rural areas. Fairfax County is home to more than 25 percent of Virginia's Hispanic population;

•    Almost three-quarters of Virginia’s Hispanic immigrants are in the prime working ages of 20 to 45. Hispanic immigrants participate in the labor force at a higher rate (80 percent) than the Virginia population overall (68 percent). The difference in labor force participation is especially true for males, and less so for females;

•    Ninety-four percent of Hispanic citizens speak English well. In contrast, 69 percent of Hispanic immigrants do not speak English well or at all. Language proficiency tends to increase the longer an immigrant stays in the U.S.;

•    Among adults age 25 and older, 35 percent of Hispanic citizens earn a college degree or more, compared to 33 percent of adult Virginians, and 15 percent of Hispanic immigrants;
•    Both Hispanic citizens and immigrants live in households larger than the typical Virginia household, the result of a higher Hispanic fertility rate, cultural values accepting co-residing with extended family and efforts to reduce expenses, among other factors;

•    Virginia’s median household income ($55,500 in 2006) exceeds that for Hispanic immigrants ($48,300), and is lower than that for Hispanic citizens ($62,800);

•    Both Hispanic immigrants and citizens are less likely to have health insurance than Virginians overall;

•    Hispanic citizens and immigrants are overrepresented as recipients of WIC, job training, rent subsidies and free and reduced-price school lunch, and underrepresented as recipients of public housing, food stamps and energy subsidies;

•    Thirty percent of Virginia’s Hispanic residents are U.S. citizens under the age of 20. Among them, 45 percent have at least one U.S.-born parent.

“Virginia’s Hispanic population is complex, varied and deeply engaged in significant sectors of the Virginia economy” said Cai, “and Hispanic presence in the overall population is likely to increase in future years. A thorough understanding of the population’s composition and characteristics provides a foundation for sound policy deliberations.”

For the complete report and downloadable/re-printable graphics, visit www.coopercenter.org/demographics/. For information, contact Qian Cai (pronounced “Chien Tsai”) at 434-982-5581 or qc6q@virginia.edu.