March 29, 2017
By Danya Perez-Hernandez
Students at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley are hosting a special guest this week to talk about the importance and changes of the Latino or Hispanic community across the nation.
“Did you know that Latinos are no longer the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the country?” Mark Hugo Lopez asked the audience on Wednesday. “That’s now actually Asian-Americans, and that’s been the case for several years now. And if you think about it, the Latino population is a very diverse population, but it’s also one of the ones that’s now starting to age … it’s also seeing fertility rates beginning to fall, and all these things are starting to reshape the population.”
Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., is visiting the university for a few days and meeting with students to talk about their work and findings. On Wednesday, the university hosted a presentation by Lopez open to the community in which he talked about the latest trends in the population across the nation and in Texas.
The Hispanic population growth slowed dramatically in 2007, he said, during the onset of the great recession. It was then that the annual growth rate decreased from 4.4 percent seen between 2000 and 2007 to only 2.8 percent between 2007 and 2014.
Along with this trend, researchers also began seeing the number of Mexican immigrants returning to Mexico increase and the number of foreign-born Hispanics decline. Half of U.S.-born Hispanics are under the age of 19 and the use of English as the main language is increasing among Hispanics.
“On one hand the immigrant story appears to be changing substantially,” he said. “But the future of the community is really going to be with these young people who really haven’t entered adulthood.”
These statistics are changing and recent elections could have an impact, he explained, but he presented the latest data collected by the center before the 2016 presidential election.
Because of the ever changing trends among Hispanics or Latinos, Lopez said it is important for him to travel the country and visit with communities such as the Rio Grande Valley where people might have different concerns than those being portrayed in Washington.
“For me, it is always valuable to just come and talk to people,” Lopez said. “In Washington D.C. there’s always a lot of concern on the Latino Vote and Immigration Reform. … When you go around the country, what I find is that people want to talk about schools, they want to talk about education, they want to talk about identity.”
Having a better understanding of what communities across the nation are concerned about, helps him direct upcoming research, he said.
Lopez was brought to the university by UTRGV’s Division of Government and Community Relations, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs & Diversity and the Department of Economics & Finance.
The plan is to also have him meet with student groups to talk about not only about the types of research happening in Washington, but about the opportunities they might find in similar fact tanks or think tanks.
For Marie Mora, professor of economics at UTRGV, this was the perfect opportunity to encourage her students to learn about the latest trends across the nation and also have the community chime in to the conversation.
“Somebody like Dr. Lopez, he is one of the nation’s premier experts on Hispanic population, and given our own demographics I think it’s very important to raise awareness on what is happening not only in Texas but the nation,” Mora said.
Source: The Monitor