On September 15, the opening day of National Hispanic Month, the 2020 U.S. Census reported that Hispanics had surpassed Whites as the largest population group in Texas. The Census Bureau noted that Hispanics accounted for 40.2 percent of the state’s population with an estimated 11.86 million residents. White non-Hispanic Texans added few to their previous total and accounted for 39.4 percent of the state’s population. This major demographic milestone for Hispanics in Texas came earlier than expected as demographers had anticipated this population shift to occur by 2025.
Alexa Ura, a writer for The Texas Tribune, reported that migration and birth rates were responsible for much of the population increases among Hispanics. She noted that 49.3 percent of Texans under 18 are Hispanic. The New York Post added that the “numbers have been trending towards a Hispanic plurality for years in Texas, with nearly 11 residents of that ethnic group gained for every additional White non-Hispanic resident over the previous decade.”
Much of the Hispanic population growth in Texas has occurred in the cities and suburbs. Texas now has three of the ten largest Hispanic cities in the United States. The number of His-panics in those cities is #4 Houston Metro 2.3 million; #7 Dallas-Fort Worth Metro 1.943 million; and #9 San Antonio Metro 1.259 mil-lion. Three other cities with sizeable Hispanic representation include McAllen-Edinburg-Mission with 758,000 Hispanic residents; El Paso with 656,000 Hispanics; and Austin-Round Rock 631,000 Hispanics.
Everything is big in Texas except educational opportunities. Texas is near the bottom in public school support for its K-12 students. The state of New York leads the nation with an average expenditure of $24,040 per pupil, while Texas expends less than half of that with an average of $9,606 per pupil, and less in school districts with low property wealth. Texas’s average per pupil expenditure is an embarrassing $600 higher than Mississippi’s average of $8,935 per pupil. As Hispanics strive to improve their educational status, they are hampered by the lack of funding and historical inequities in state school finance. White Texans have a high school completion rate of 94.4 percent, while Hispanic high school completion rests at only 71 percent. The educational gaps are even more evident in college completion where Whites have a more than two-to-one advantage [39.4% to 16.1%] over Hispanics in completing college with a degree.
The high levels of poverty in the Latino communities of Texas continue to challenge policymakers. The Texas Tribune reported that the poverty level of Hispanics exceeded twice that of Whites [19.4% to 8.4%]. Nearly one in five Hispanic families in Texas live in poverty. Poverty negatively affects the bodies and the minds of young and old. Children who do not have enough to eat are especially harmed by the lack of good nutrition.
Federal programs that provide free lunches have been of great help, but families without children in school also suffer from food shortages. Housing is another area of disparity. Low-income people have few housing choices. Most low-income Latino families do not own their homes, move frequently, and can-not build financial equity or family wealth through homeownership. Transient experiences in housing also have an adverse impact on children’s educational and upward mobility opportunities.
The high poverty level among Latinos is related to lower educational status which often leads to low-paid work in unskilled employment. Today Lati-nos make up a large sector of service workers. At the lower end of the income scale, many service workers earn less than $15 dollars an hour. Whites in Texas earn an annual median income of $81,384, while Hispanics’ annual median income is $54,857. Policy experts predict that poverty will persist until state policymakers employ more effective tools to combat this income disparity. Many Hispanics believe that the current Texas Republican government is insensitive to their plight. As a consequence, Latinos are mounting a get-out-the-vote campaign to elect Latinos to state-wide offices. Currently, no Latinos hold state-wide offices in Texas.
The news last week that Hispanics are the largest population group in Texas was coupled with The New York Times article, “Hispanic Voters Still Lean Blue, Poll Concludes.” Although Texas has been a Republican Party bastion for the past 30 years, many pollsters predict that the large increase of Hispanics reaching voting age over the past decade may soon contribute to political change in the Lone Star State.