“It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”
— Sonia Sotomayor, First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice
Beginning in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, and expanding in 1988 to cover a 30-day period, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month each year from September 15 to October 15 to celebrate the history and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The month-long celebration commemorates how these communities influence and contribute to American society.
This impact is obvious in the population numbers alone, as Hispanic and Latino Americans now make up 19% of the total U.S. population, with over 62.8 million Hispanics currently living in the U.S., making it one of the fastest-growing population segments.
However, there are many more ways the Hispanic community is contributing daily to the United States, and it is POWERFUL. So, as the celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month continue, let’s take a brief look at the impact of the Hispanic community on our country.
The Power of the Workforce
The Hispanic community’s commitment to the workforce is noteworthy, as numbers show Hispanics are more active in the labor force than the U.S. population as a whole, meaning they are more likely to be of working age — between 16 and 65 — and are able and willing to work. The New American Economy reports that in 2017, while the overall labor force participation rate in the United States was 63.2 percent, it was 67.4 percent for Hispanics.
Currently, Hispanic American workers play tremendous and critical roles in several major U.S. industries, including 27.3 percent of workers in construction, 23.1 percent in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting and 22.3 percent in hospitality, with these percentages growing quickly.
Hispanics are expected to have the most labor force growth from 2018 to 2028, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of Hispanics in the labor force to increase by about 7.4 million—more than any other age, sex, or race or ethnic group.
BLS also projects total growth in the labor force to reach about 8.9 million people over the decade, in key industries such as healthcare and social assistance, construction, accommodation and food services, transportation and warehousing, and educational services. Each of these numbers demonstrates the power and speed at which the Hispanic community’s commitment to the U.S. workforce is accelerating.
The Power of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is one of the most important drivers of the American economy today, but did you know that Hispanic entrepreneurs, including Hispanic Americans and immigrants, continue to start and own their own businesses at higher rates than the rest of the population, boasting some of the highest rates of business ownership in the country? In 2017, 11.9 percent of Hispanic immigrant workers were self-employed, compared to 9.6 percent of the overall U.S. population.
This means Hispanic immigrants were 24.5 percent more likely to have their own business than the overall U.S. population, with a total of almost 2.3 million Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States in 2017. According to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, “No community values entrepreneurship and small business more than the Hispanic community.”
In addition to contributions to the workforce and America’s entrepreneurial spirit, the Hispanic population has an enormous impact on our economy with its spending power. Felipe Korzenny, founder of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communications, says, “For the United States, it’s a double benefit.
Because, one, they work and produce things that other groups don’t like to, then on top of that they add to the consumption base.” For years, Hispanic households have accounted for a huge portion of America’s spending power. In 2015, Hispanics had an estimated after-tax income of more than $687.8 billion. That figure is equivalent to almost one out of every 10 dollars of disposable income held in the United States that year.
And within the next year, Hispanic household spending is projected to reach $978 billion, making Hispanics the single largest and highest-spending minority group in the United States.
Just one year ago, NBC News reported on how Hispanics and Latinos were on track to be the largest share of nonwhite voters in 2020, as Hispanics grew more than any other racial or ethnic groups as a share of eligible voters. And with the election less than a month away, a record 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote, up from 27.3 million in 2016.
Additionally, a recent Pew Research report details how Hispanics are projected to be about 13.3 percent of the electorate in 2020, which would make them the largest racial or ethnic minority of the electorate for the first time, accounting for just over 13% of eligible voters.
As we take time this month to recognize and celebrate the impact the Hispanic community has made on our society, let us also express gratitude – gratitude for the diversity within our country that empowers us and makes us stronger every day.
As Felipe Korzenny says, “Interestingly, a society or workplace that promotes diversity tends to result in stronger and more creative ideas. That is precisely because ideas coming from different cultural experiences can enhance each other.” Thank you to our entire Hispanic and Latino community, for the contributions of the past, and the ones you make within this country every single day. Salud!