Race Matters and So Do Ethnicity and Gender: Ethnic Studies for an Expanding American Community


Zaragosa Vargas

Document Id: OC-13

Since the 1970's, huge numbers of Latino and Asian immigrants have arrived in the United States for the millions of jobs that have opened up in service, retail, clerical, and light manufacturing. This contemporary wave of immigration from Asia, Mexico, and Latin America has already surpassed in total numbers the immigration from southern and eastern Europe of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. A third of the new immigrants enter the United States through California, America's new Ellis Island. As a result of this great immigration influx, the population of Los Angeles is one-third foreign born and racial minorities now make up a fourth of California's population. The increased immigration, along with high birth rates, have made racial minorities the fastest-growing segment of America's population. One in four of all Americans are members of a racial minority group; in 16 states and the District of Columbia, one in three school children is a minority, and one in five college students are racial minorities. This demographic trend will remain constant into the next century. Latinos are defined as Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and the new arrivals from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Central and Latin America. As a total group, they are America's fastest growing minority population. Since 1980, the number of Latinos in the United States has increased by 50%. Presently, over 25 million Latinos live in the United States. Through high birth rates and immigration, Latinos are projected to surpass African Americans as America's largest racial minority population. Not only are Latinos changing America racially and ethnically, but in terms of language the United States now has the fifth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. This fast population growth has spawned predominantly Latino cities in America. For example, Los Angeles has the second largest population of Mexicans in the world; Houston, Texas has the world's third largest Mexican population; followed by Chicago, where one-fourth of the world's Mexican population reside; and both New York City and Miami have sizable Latino populations.

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