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Voters in line to cast their ballots during early voting in Philadelphia on Oct. 7, 2020. Photo: Gabriella Audi / AFP - Getty Images
Voters in line to cast their ballots during early voting in Philadelphia on Oct. 7, 2020. Photo: Gabriella Audi / AFP - Getty Images

What does the 2020 U.S. Census say about Latinos?

The United States has seen a large increase of Latinos over the decade since the last U.S. Census, and that will pay huge dividends down the line. 

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In one of two presentations at the 2021 Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) State of Hispanic Business Forum, Michael Jones-Correa detailed the implications of the most recent U.S. Census on Latinos.

Jones-Correa is the ​Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania.

Many conclusions can be drawn from the 2020 U.S. Census. However, for Latinos, the numbers show a significant increase that has significant ramifications.  

A Snapshot of Pennsylvania

Jones-Correa noted that going into the Census, it was “probable that the state of Pennsylvania was going to show a decrease in population.”

He added that that decrease would mean the state losing a congressional seat. 

Various parts of the state did see a decrease in population, particularly in central and rural areas. 

On the other hand, Philadelphia saw the greatest numerical increase in population, followed by various parts of southeastern Pennsylvania. 

“This has implications for how House districts are going to be redrawn,” said Jones-Correa. 

He noted that there is one specific reason for the population growth in the Southeast part of the state. 

“A good part of the reason why this is happening is because of the growth of the Latino population in the country as a whole,” Jones-Correa added. 

Currently, there are about 62 million Latinos in the United States, comprising roughly 18% of the population.

“Pennsylvania has always been a bit of a laggard when it comes to its foreign-born population, its Latino population,” said Jones Correa. “But it’s now sort of beginning to match the kind of rates of population and growth around the country.

He noted how the current trends have long-term implications. 

Latino Population Growth in Philadelphia

The north central region of Philadelphia constitutes “the heart of the Latino community in Philadelphia,” said Jones-Correa, noting the predominant Puerto Rican population. 

He noted that the increase in the Puerto Rican population in Philadelphia and across the U.S. is due partly to economic reasons and displacement as a result of a series of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Maria and a number of earthquakes since. 

There is also a significant Latino population in Oxford Circle and the northeast region of the city. 

Philadelphia is seeing an overall increasingly diverse population.

To this end, Jones-Correa underscored an increase of the foreign-born population in the city.

“These two trends,” he said, “the growth of the Latino population and the growth of the foreign-born population accounts for basically all of the population growth in Philadelphia,” he said. 

“If there had been no foreign-born migration to Philadelphia and no Latino migration to Philadelphia, the population in Philadelphia would have shrunk,” he added. 

The Political Implications

While Latinos comprise a larger percentage of the population, there remains a political disparity despite that increase. 

In comparison to its overall 18%, Latinos only represent 10% of the electorate. 

“We’re under-represented as a proportion of the electorate,” said Jones-Correa, adding that it is partly due to many Latinos waiting to become U.S. citizens, as well as a participation lag. 

The lack of voting activity diminishes the long-term impact Latinos are able to make. 

“As we’re thinking about how to leverage the influence of Latinos, both nationally and regionally, is to think about this reserve pool of Latinos who are sort of sitting on the sidelines or not yet engaged,” said Jones-Correa. 

However, for many Latinos who are and have been engaged, between 2016 and 2020, there has been a glaring swing from the Democratic Party to Republican Party. 

“We may think that Latinos are sort of a safe Democratic constituency, but it’s more complicated than that,” he said. 

Jones-Correa also noted that the swing of more Latinos shifting to the Republican Party is less of an outlier when looking at voting trends dating back to 1980. 

“This does not mean that the Latino voters should be taken for granted,” he said. “Pennsylvania remains a swing state, and Latino voters are swing constituencies... that’s actually a very powerful position to be in.”

“Latino voices can receive greater attention and can be exercised for greater leverage,” he added. 

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