PALM BEACH, Fla. - A new national survey shows that the Latino population in the U.S. rose 47 percent from 2000 to 2011.
The Pew Research Hispanic Center in Washington, a respected demographic research institute, found that the Latino population in the U.S. during those 11 years swelled from 35.2 million to 51.9 million. The total U.S. population as of 2011 was 311.6 million, meaning that 16.7 percent of people living in the U.S. were Latino, compared with 12.5 percent in 2000.
And that percentage is expected to increase. Of all births in the U.S. in 2011, 23.1 percent were to Latino women.
The 2011 numbers are based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which surveyed 3 percent of the households in the U.S. and extrapolated total numbers from those interviews. The households were contacted during 2011 and the numbers were compiled over the past year. The 2000 numbers were based on the census from that year.
The center says its figures include illegal immigrants. There are thought to be 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 80 percent of whom are Latino.
The growing numbers of Latinos, especially the increase in Latino voters, is affecting U.S. political life. Democratic President Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney for the presidency in November in part by winning the Latino vote by 71 percent to 26 percent.
Republicans' hard-line position against the legalization of illegal immigrants cost them many Latino votes. GOP members of Congress have since begun negotiating with Democrats on a comprehensive immigration law overhaul, to improve relations with Latino voters.
By far the largest Latino community in the U.S. is people of Mexican descent, with 33.5 million, or 64.5 percent of all Latinos. Many people of Mexican descent come from families that have lived in the U.S. for many generations. Two-thirds of all persons of Mexican descent in the U.S. were born here.
Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens from birth, number 4.9 million; Salvadorans, 1.95 million; and Cubans, 1.88 million. Guatemalans number 1.22 million nationwide.
Not only did the number of Latinos and their percentage of the U.S. population increase, but the percentage of Latinos in the U.S. who are U.S.-born increased from 59.9 percent to 63.8 percent. Latinos have the lowest median age of any population group, 27, compared to 33 for blacks; 36 for Asians; and 42 for whites.
Florida is home to the third-highest total of Latinos: 4.35 million, or 22.8 percent of the state's population. It is far behind California, which includes 14.4 million Latinos, and Texas with 9.8 million. Both of those states are 38.1 percent Latino.