Census Bureau data released on Thursday shows that it is a phenomenon that is happening across America: Latinos are moving into municipalities and counties, often replacing residents heading to other places in search of better jobs or a lower cost of living, and they are making the population base younger and more ethnically diverse.
According to the new data, there are 55.4 million Hispanics in the U.S. as of July 2014, an increase of 2.1 percent from the previous year. Although, of course, that change hasn't been uniform.
In New Jersey, for example, the Hispanic population grew from 1.6 million to 1.7 million between 2010 and 2017, compared to the non-Hispanic population, which has remained stationary at 7.2 million. The surge in Latinos moving to the Garden State has helped New Jersey's overall population grow from 8.8 million to 8.9 million over the last four years, with the counties close to New York City seeing the largest growth in their Hispanic populations.
Bergen County, for example, saw more than 25,000 Latinos moving to the county since 2010, and Hudson County received an influx of more than 19,000 Hispanics over the last four years. But in South Jersey, counties like Cape May and Salem saw less than a 1,000 Hispanics move there in the same time frame.
The Census Bureau report shows that the U.S.'s white population reached an all-time high median age of 43 and those younger than 5 were outnumbered by minority children. In New Jersey, the report found that 64 percent of the Latino population – or 1.1 million people – are younger than 40 years old and the majority of the state's millennial population – people between 18 and 34 years old – are minorities.
"In a sense, 2015 marks the demographic passing of the baby boom generation, and it will continue to be an ever smaller part of the total U.S. population until it disappears altogether later this century," C. Matthew Snipp, a sociology professor at Stanford University, told the Washington Post.
The changing demographics across the U.S. also indicate that many states are moving toward becoming minority-majority — where all minorities combine to make up more than half the population. Nevada, a key state in the upcoming 2016 presidential election, looks poised to soon join that club, whose members already include Hawaii (77 percent minority), California (61.5 percent), New Mexico (61.1 percent) and Texas (56.6 percent).
Thirteen states now boost a minority-majority in their under-20 population, up from only five states in 2000. None of these states showed an increase in the under-20 white population, which currently sits at 52.2 percent nationwide.
The growth in the the Latino population was not just in regions with traditionally large populations. Western Pennsylvania saw a 4.2 percent increase in its Hispanic population between 2013 and 2014 (albeit it was only 1,600 people) and Ohio upped its Latino population 3.5 percent, or about 83,000 people, according to Census data.
Some observers are saying that this increase in the U.S.'s Latino population could play a major role in politics, especially in battleground states like Nevada and Florida. The Sunshine State saw more than 141,000 Hispanics move there between July 2013 and July 2014 alone, with the biggest increases being recorded in Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange counties.
"It's a continuation of a trend in terms of growth," Stefan Rayer, population program director at the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, told the Florida Times-Union. "The Hispanic population is increasing the most of any racial or ethnic group."
Pairing the growing Hispanic population with that of the expanding Asian population – the census data shows that China has replaced Mexico as the chief source of U.S. immigrants – has many experts saying that as many as 25.6 million new Hispanic and Asian voters could sway the vote in states across the U.S. come 2016 and 2020.
According to the Partnership for a New American Economy – an organization composed of more than 500 mayors and business leaders – in 16 states "there could be more new Hispanic and Asian voters by 2020 than decided the 2012 presidential result," with California potentially seeing more than 7,650,000 new Hispanic and Asian voters, and Texas more than 3,000,000.