- Hispanics in the United States: A Demographic, Social, and Economic History, 1980–2005
Over the last decade, the integration of Hispanics into the fabric of America, due largely to ongoing immigration from Latin America and rapid growth in the native-born Hispanic community, has received attention from social scientists and journalist alike. With Hispanics accounting for 38 percent of Texans alone and representing roughly 18 percent of the total U.S. population, it will be impossible from this point forward to overlook the demographic and economic importance of this group that is one of every six Americans.
Appreciating this upward trend in the spirit of the breakthrough work, The Hispanic Population of the United States (1987) by Frank D. Bean and Marta Tienda, Hispanics in the United States does an utilitarian job of cutting through seemingly dense and arcane statistical data to present a Hispanic profile that outlines the demographic, social, and economic record of Latinos/as over a recent quarter century. While Bergad and Klein document the impact that immigrants have had on the U.S. labor force, they do so without analyzing the social and cultural consequences and underpinnings. They argue that delving into cultural themes is not their central interest because “so many outstanding scholars from different disciplines have produced so much innovative and pioneering work” already (3–4). Regrettably, [End Page 326] not doing so undermines their promising work, in part because avoiding the interplay of race and cultural identity, assimilation, acculturation, and retro-acculturation of the Hispanic community is like trying to effectively explore film history and representation without ethnic, cultural, national, or gender stereotypes.
Bergad and Klein’s work is filled with useful information, graphs, tables, figures, maps, and various illustrations about the heterogeneous Hispanic population, including Brazilians. The book first gives us historical background on the Hispanic presence while reminding many that there are more variations than commonalities among Latino national origin groups. Thereafter the book is divided into thirteen chapters enveloped around a descriptive approach that focuses more on translating statistical data than analyzing demographic shifts and historical forces. Using mostly census records from the Public Use Microdata Series (PUMS) of the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial counts and the 2005 one-year estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS), the book helps shed light on how different demographic variables have affected Latino subgroup communities differently. It fails, however, to cogently and clearly connect those variables into concepts toward understanding the social and economic repercussions facing Hispanics, and throughout the United States.
In addition, the book makes some strong assertions, especially about Hispan-ics having an American experience “similar to the classic patterns found in all immigrant communities of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (3). This may have some merit, but this argument has to be anchored in more than census computations. Perhaps if the authors attempted to explore Hispanic identity even on a surface level, they could have developed stronger arguments based on a broader framework of respective Hispanic subgroup community social dynamics. Despite the effort by the scholars to review and rework voluminous statistical information for the quantitatively challenged, some of their conclusions are confusing largely because the history they present is translated without considering crucial historical factors intrinsic with immigration and assimilation experiences.
Even with its shortcomings, Hispanics in the United States is a welcome publication for the reason alone that a detailed gathering of once ambiguous data about Hispanics is practical for not only evaluation of the recent past, but to help chart the future. As immigration, fertility rates, and Latino intermarriage continue to increase diversity in and beyond the Hispanic community, the book takes a small step in improving our understanding of not why but how people view themselves and others in becoming less hyphenated Americans.