SALT LAKE CITY — More Hispanics live in the United States than previously thought, Hispanics need just three generations to attain the same education levels as other American races and the United States is likely to become — demographically speaking — a Hispanic nation.
So said Rakesh Kochhar, assistant director of research for the Pew Hispanic Center, citing U.S. Census data and Pew statistics as he spoke recently at the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's annual convention, reports The Deseret News.
Census figures from 2010 show 50.5 million Hispanics reside in the U.S, 1.5 million more than anticipated and a 43 percent increase — or an additional 15.2 million — since the 2000 Census.
Comparing U.S. population increases by race over the past decade, Asians trailed at 42.9 percent; whites at 1.2 percent, blacks at 11 percent and "other" — including those reporting more than one race — at 24.1 percent.
The total U.S. population grew 9.3 percent to 308.7 million in 2010.
"Utah is one of the states in which the Hispanic community has grown more rapidly, at a rate of 78 percent during the last decade," said Kochhar, adding "Utah, as with the rest of the nation, will be increasingly more Hispanic in the future."
Kochhar said one area of concern suggested by data analyses is that Hispanic education levels are not keeping up with growth increases, despite U.S.-born children of immigrants attending U.S. schools, speaking fluent English and going to college in increasing numbers.
"What looking toward the future permits us to predict is that in three generations, Hispanics will be at the same (education) levels with the rest of the population. For now, although more Latinos go to the centers of higher education, there is still a gap present due to the fact that some are not setting high expectations, the numbers of school dropouts are high, and they are subject to economic pressures," he said.
"Minorities suffer in these situations because many have to work to maintain their families, but for following generations, things will be different."
With the benefit of a stronger educational background, Latinos will gain a stronger presence in government "and they will be able to have their voice here," he added.
Kochhar suggests Hispanic immigrants could hold the key to U.S. economic recovery, as opposed to European nations where immigration is limited and populations are decreasing.
"In the future, the United States will not be a white nation or an Africa-American nation but a Hispanic nation," he said. "The future of the labor force is in the hands of immigrants."