Does the rapid growth of the Hispanic population, which is projected to continue for several more decades, pose a threat to American society?
The Census Bureau reported in 2005 that Hispanics accounted for half the 2.9 million U.S. population growth from 2003 to 2004 and now constitute one-seventh of all people in the United States. This rapid growth of the Hispanic Population has made immigration a volatile issue both in Congress and in the Border States (Hispanic Population In U.S. Soars 1).
According to CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, “The implication for Washington is that the issues that matter to Hispanic households including bilingual education, jobs, migration and trade with Latin America, are going to regain importance on the President’s agenda.”
This development in turn has sparked now debates over the rapid growth of the Hispanic Population in the United States; the main issue of these debates being the concern that this rapid population growth could lead to a degradation of American Society.
This short discourse will therefore seek to shed more light on these debates and establish that the rapid growth of the Hispanic population, which is projected to continue for several more decades, does NOT pose a threat to American society. This discussion will begin by first examining the population growth of Hispanics in America.
Growth of Hispanic Population:
The growth of the Hispanic Population in the United States has been rapid, to say the least. Hispanics account for about half the growth in the U.S. population since 2000. This indicates that the nation’s largest minority group is increasing its presence even faster than in the previous decade (Cohn 1). In July 2004, Hispanics numbered 41.3 million out of a national population of nearly 293.7 million. This minority group has the fastest growth rate among the America’s major racial and ethnic groups. In the 1990s, they accounted for 40 percent of the country’s population increase (Hispanic Population In U.S. Soars 1).
There have been numerous effects caused by the rapid growth of the Hispanic Population. Among the most significant is the impacts that it has had on American Society are with regard to economic development and socioeconomic inequality (Kandel 1) as well as the landscape of American Public School Eduation (Fry 1).
According to Kandel, “Hispanic population growth in rural areas often coincides with revived economies from expanded manufacturing, increased recreation and tourism, and growing retirement destinations. The extent to which Hispanic immigrants integrate spatially within a community directly affects their interaction with the community as well as native attitudes toward ethnic and racial diversity.(1)” This essentially means that the success of certain economies is dependent on how the Hispanic Community adapts in such an environment.
Another impact that the rapid growth of the Hispanic Population has had is in the educational system where it was found that the schools that experienced the largest growth in Hispanic enrollment were generally larger than most other schools and also had more students on federal subsidies which translated into greater teacher-student ratios, which is an important indicator that has improved across the nation but not as significantly in Hispanic-impacted schools (Fry 1).
There is no doubt that the Hispanic Population has indeed been growing and has instituted certain changes in not only the educational system of America but in other aspects of American Society as well. What remains to be determined therefore is whether or not these changes alone do indeed create such an impact so as to threaten the very foundations of American Society.
Debates Surrounding the Rapid Growth:
As mentioned earlier, one of the main arguments regarding the rapid growth of the Hispanic Population in the United States is that it is considered by some as a threat to American Society. In order to properly analyze and refute this statement however, it must first be shown what the bases of this claim are and whether or not they make a good point.
The first basis for claiming that the rapid growth of the Hispanic population poses a threat to American society is that the Hispanics cause the economic downturn of the communities in which they are the majority population (Huntington 40). In the article of Huntington entitled “The Hispanic Challenge”, it is cited that the main problem is the high rate of poverty among the Hispanics which as Huntington claims is the main problem with the Hispanics; Hispanic communities, with their high poverty rate, cause the deterioration of the other communities surrounding them (Huntington 41).
Huntington is not alone in his claims as another study shows that “sudden influxes of ethnic-minority, low-wage workers and their families can overwhelm rural school systems, depress local wages, increase demand for social services, and contribute to income inequality and residential segregation (Kandel 1).”
These arguments are too quick to point out that the economic troubles in certain areas in the United States are solely the result of increased Hispanic population in the area. The Hispanics cannot be singled out as the reason for this. “If this problem is not remedied”, according to Ricardo Hausmann in his reaction to the Huntington article, “imagine the consequences: Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia could end up as backward and destitute as Florida and California, where the Hispanic epidemic has apparently done the gravest damage. (1)” Such a flawed analogy, therefore, if applied to a similar set of circumstances, would definitely not have the same results.
Survey statistics show that Hispanics are not the lowest in terms of earnings and in fact earn more on average than most Americans. It becomes untenable therefore to argue that any community that has a Hispanic majority is a depressed area as others have claimed. In fact it may even be argued that it is because of the Hispanic Population that certain areas such as Miami have experienced economic growth and development.
Another major issue surrounding the Hispanic Population is with regard to their perceived “unwillingess” to be assimilated into American Society. In the article entitled “The Hispanic Challenge”, Sam Huntington claims that not only are the Hispanics unwilling or unable to speak English but that since their population in the United States has grown to such a large number there are even more financial incentives provided to those who can speak Spanish and English and that such an action encourages and facilitates the degradation of American Society (Huntington 38).
The problem with this argument of Huntington and of all who make this claim is that it places the blame solely on the Hispanic population and fails to consider the fact that the Hispanics are not the first immigrants who have come to the United States. There is not enough data to prove that the premium being given to those who can speak English and Spanish has resulted in having a population that is disinterested in learning how to speak English. Neither can it be argued that this results in a deterioration of American Society because there are other minorities in the United States as well who have an even more difficult time learning English as compared to the Hispanics.
Finally, as point out by Zhou in her article “Assimilation: The Asian Way”, the minorities in America, specifically the Asians (this may be applied analogously to the Hispanics as minorities), do not resist assimilation into American Society but are instead shunned by those who consider anyone who has a different color of skin to be an immigrant and even the second generation adhere more the way of life that defines American Society than their own ethnic and cultural heritage (Zhou 146).
Therefore, it cannot be argued that the Hispanic population poses a threat to American Society; be it economically or culturally. In fact it may even be argued that they further improve American Society.
The claim that the rapid growth of the Hispanic population poses a threat to American society, as shown in the previous section, is clearly poorly founded or may just simply be narrow-minded in its approach that it fails to consider the other factors that may have a more direct impact on American Society.
An interesting view is presented by Min Zhou in her article entitled Assimilation: The Asian way, which discusses the assimilation of Asians into American Society. She basically points out that the Asians in the United States stick to each other and form their own “ethnic enclaves” in order to ensure their success in America (Zhou 147). This is not contrary to the point that is being made in this discussion but in fact strengthens the position that the rapid growth of the Hispanic population cannot be considered as a threat to American Society.
In fact the same article makes mention of the fact that these immigrants embrace their “Americanness” and are actually already assimilated into American Society (Zhou 139). Instead, this position reinforces the point that the growth in the Hispanic Population cannot be considered as a threat to American Society because of the fact that the immigrants themselves, while they seek to establish certain “ethnic enclaves” within their communities, actually embrace American culture and society and are only forced to cling to their ethnic roots to ensure their chances of surviving within America in the face of the discrimination which the continually encounter (Zhou 146).
While some of the Hispanic immigrants may already be considered as American for all legal intents and purposes, there still exists a certain level of discrimination that seeks to distinguish them from other Americans and thus creates the impression that they are resisting assimilation into American Society and instead causing changes in the system that pose a threat to American Society.
The rapid growth of the Hispanic population cannot be considered as a threat to American Society. To arrive at such a hasty generalization as to condemn the Hispanic population for the perceived flaws and degradation of American Society would be “immature” to say the least. While it cannot be denied that there is threat to the very foundations of American Society, it cannot be said that this threat is posed by the rapid growth of the Hispanic Population in America.
This discussion has shown that while there may be data that suggests that there may be a correlation between what is happening to American Society today and the increase in the number of Hispanics it is insufficient to completely establish that such a relationship exists.
It may even go to show that such fears are totally unfounded and that the exact opposite is happening that the rapid growth of the Hispanic Population in America today is not threatening American Society but rather reinforcing it according to the visions of the forefathers when they first drafted the United States Constitution. As Lady Liberty puts it, “Give us your tired, your poor, you huddled masses.”
Cohn, D. (2005) Hispanic Growth Surge Fueled by Births in U.S. The Washington Post June 9, 2005; Page A01
Fry, R. (2006) The Changing Landscape of American Public Education: New Students, New Schools Pew Hispanic Center retrieved on November 18, 2006 from, http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=72
Huntington, S. (2004) The Hispanic Challenge retrieved on November 5, 2006 from www.foreignpolicy.com pages 31-45
Hausmann, R. (2004) “Foreign Policy: Commentary on “The Hispanic Challenge” retrieved on November 5, 2006 from, www.foreignpolicy.com/story/files/story2530.php
Hispanic Population In U.S. Soars CBS News Broadcasting Retrieved on November 19, 2006 from, http//www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/06/09/national/main700582_page1.shtml
Kandel, W. and Comartie, J. (2003) Hispanics Find A Home In Rural America Retrieved on November 19, 2006 from, http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/Feb03/Findings/HispanicsFind.htm
Zhou, M. Assimilation: The Asian Way. From Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What it means to be American by Tamar Jocoby. Basic Books. Pages 139-153
 SOURCE http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/08/AR2005060802381.html
 SOURCE http://pewhispanic.org/files/other/middecade/complete.pdf