U.S. Hispanics and Their Diverse Heritage

There were nearly 60 million Hispanics in the United States in 2017, accounting for approximately 18% of the total U.S. population. In 1980, with a population of 14.8 million, Hispanics made up just 6.5% of the total U.S. population.

Metropolitan Areas

The makeup of the Hispanic population varies widely across major metropolitan areas. Mexicans comprise more than two-in-three Hispanics in the Los Angeles and Houston metro areas, reflecting their majority share among the national Hispanic population. But in many other metro areas, other origin groups make up the largest share among Hispanics. Puerto Ricans are the largest group in the Orlando, Florida, metro area, while Salvadorans are the largest in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Cubans are the largest origin group in the Miami metro area.



The U.S. Hispanic population is diverse. The nearly 60 million individuals trace their heritage to Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America and Spain, each with distinct demographic and economic profiles. From 2010 to 2017, 10 of the 15 largest origin groups grew faster than the Hispanic population overall, which increased by 16%.

The Venezuelan population in the U.S. increased 76% to 421,000 in 2017, by far the fastest growth rate among Hispanic origin groups. Among groups with populations above 1 million, Dominicans and Guatemalans had the most rapid growth. Their communities grew by 37% and 30%, respectively, during this time. Puerto Ricans, the second-largest origin group, saw their population in the 50 states and the District of Columbia jump by 20%, to 5.6 million in 2017. (Another 3.2 million live in Puerto Rico.)

At nearly 37 million, Mexicans are the largest origin group and makeup 62% of Latinos, but this share has decreased from a recent peak of 66% in 2008. The Mexican population grew by 11% from 2010 to 2017, tied for the lowest growth rate among the 15 origin groups. The Peruvian and Ecuadorian communities in the U.S. saw similarly slow growth rates.

Median Age

The median age of U.S. Latinos has increased since 2010. Latinos had a median age of 29 years in 2017, up from 27 in 2010, but well below the national median of 38 years for the overall U.S. population. Of the 15 largest Latino origin groups, Cubans and Argentines had the highest median ages, at 40 and 39. Meanwhile, Mexicans (27) and Guatemalans (28) were the youngest groups.

English Proficiency

The share of Latinos who speak English proficiently has increased. In 2017, 70% of Latinos ages five and older spoke English proficiently, up from 65% in 2010. Spaniards (93%), Panamanians (87%) and Puerto Ricans (83%) had the highest shares of English proficiency, while Hondurans (48%), Guatemalans (48%) and Salvadorans (53%) had the lowest percentages. The share of Mexicans who speak English proficiently (71%) is similar to that of Latinos overall.

Educational Attainment

Venezuelan-origin Hispanics have the highest share with a bachelor’s degree. About 16% of Latino adults ages 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, up from 13% in 2010 but lower than the overall U.S. population (32%). Among Latino origin groups, Venezuelans (55%) and Argentines (43%) have the highest shares with a bachelor’s degree or higher, while Guatemalans (10%) and Salvadorans (10%) have the lowest percentages. Each origin group has seen this share increase since 2010.

Economic Characteristics

Latinos’ economic conditions vary widely by origin group. Argentines had the highest median household income, at $68,000, almost $20,000 more than the overall Latino median ($49,010). Hondurans had the lowest median income at $41,000, about $8,000 lower than the Latino median. Mexicans had a median income ($49,000) similar to the Latino median.


U.S. Citizens and U.S. Residents

The vast majority of Latinos are U.S. citizens. About 79% of Latinos living in the country are U.S. citizens, up from 74% in 2010. This includes people born in the U.S. and its territories (including Puerto Rico), people born abroad to American parents and immigrants who have become naturalized citizens. Among the origin groups, virtually all Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Spaniards (91%), Panamanians (89%) and Mexicans (79%) have some of the highest citizenship rates, while Hondurans (53%) and Venezuelans (51%) have the lowest rates.

A growing share of Latino immigrants is longtime U.S. resident. Nearly four-in-five Latino immigrants (78%) have lived in the U.S. for more than ten years, up from 64% in 2010. Panamanian (88%) and Mexican (84%) immigrants have the highest shares on this measure. Many Latino immigrants have been in the U.S. for decades – 46% of Latino immigrants have lived in the U.S. for 21 or more years.

Among groups with more recently arrived immigrants, Venezuelan immigrants (58%) and immigrants from Spain (38%) have the highest shares who have been in the U.S. for less than ten years.