From Building American Public Health: Latino Demographics

I try to avoid any political commentary, though that is not easy.  But given the election, I thought this selection from my book:  Building American Public Health:  Urban Planning, Architecture, and the Quest for Better Public Health in the United States, was relevant.



The 2010 Census revealed continuing shifts in the population of the United States.  One of the most important of these is the tremendous growth of the Hispanic population.1 What in 1990 was a modest 8.9% of the population concentrated in a few states, now represents 16% of the country’s population and almost every state has important numbers of Latinos.2 Several states are already a majority minority. Others are moving rapidly in that direction and by mid century, non-Hispanic Whites may no longer be a majority in this country.3

There are potential benefits to this population growth.  This group has represented the bulk of growth in this country in the past twenty years and some states and cities would have lost population if not for Latino immigration and high birth rates.4 Hispanics fill vital roles in this country including providing much of the workforce for the construction, manufacturing and service industries.  There is also what is known as the Hispanic paradox, Latinos, or at least those of Mexican ancestry, tend to have lower death rates than non-Latinos.5 In general, this is a healthy population, even including the native born (immigrants tend to have better health because healthy people are more likely to emigrate).

But as Hispanics assimilate, and evidence suggests that Latinos are assimilating at a faster rate than did previous migrants to the United States,6 their health status declines towards that of the non-Hispanic, native-born population.  Already, there are serious concerns with obesity, diabetes, physical activity and other issues in the Latino community.7  This may make efforts to address health problem through modifications to the built environment issues an imperative.8 Latinos are less likely to own cars and more likely to take public transportation, attributes that should be encouraged given how this lowers environmental impacts.9


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