Posted by: roamingolivia | January 5, 2011

The next great migration? New stats on Hispanics in the US


I have a lot of catching up to do with end-of-the-year posts, but it’s already 2011 – only 360 days left! (actually if you say it like that, it’s really scary) – so I will move onto the new stuff. I will come back to lists. But I can’t do those in 5 minutes while sitting at my desk because they require real thought.

Whereas, say, blogging about demographic patterns does not.

Okay, not really. I’ll back up.

I am reading The Warmth of Other Suns, which is a relatively well written (if repetitive and cliched very occassionally) book about the so-called Great Migration of Blacks living in the South, who moved to the rest of the US because they were treated so completely terrible in the South. It’s based on plenty of documentary and archive research, which is good, but also 1,200 interviews with people who were really doing the migration. So it is good at driving home exactly how bad those lives were, how people felt when they were segregated.

This is interesting/somewhat new to me, probably because I’m kind of from the South and because I am white and because I didn’t study Southern studies or anything similar. I think in a lot of mainstream potrayals of Jim Crow laws, you get this idea that Blacks were somehow not affected by the way they were treated. That they didn’t know better, and so they didn’t notice, and they needed these revolutionaries to rise up and make them realise they were treated badly.

What’s interesting in this book is that people knew they were being treated badly. It made them sad, and angry. People they knew were beaten to death, killed, lynched, etc., and with absolutely no recompense. That’s why they left. Essentially, the book is good at re-humanizing them. I’m only 150 pages in so this is not a review. But so far it’s a good book; it kept me up til 1.30 last night – an achievement for non-fiction.

Now, that is all background for this article on the statistics of Hispanics in the US, which I happened to see – not sure how, since I am so far behind on the Economist… and all my other news sites/links/blogs/etc. (I need to just click “mark all as read” in Google Reader and start wiht a new slate.) Anyway, the article is about this:

Last month the Census Bureau released data from its latest American Community Survey showing the percentage of people aged five and over who speak Spanish at home. This survey took place over five years from 2005 to 2009, so it’s not a snapshot, but with that caveat in mind, it does show small but notable differences from the 2000 census, both in the overall percentage of Spanish speakers (up to 12.1% from 10.7% in 2000) and in where they are concentrated: increasingly in the north and centre of the country.

Now, since I have already explained what my dominant reading influence is – this book on the Black migration – this made me wonder if the explanations the Economist gives (prosperity, anglicisation, the need to avoid census takers in case they turn them in for being illegal) are incomplete? It may be more what it cites as the conclusion:

What’s interesting is that either way, the deep south remains a redoubt of whiteness non-Hispanics.

[The strikeout is in the original.]

There was an article a few months ago about how illegal Hispanics in stricter southwestern states (Arizona/New Mexico) are moving to Colorado to avoid deportation. That makes some sense. Maybe there are other forms of harassment in more southern areas? Or more economic opportunity (the period surveyed also overlaps with some of the recession)?

Thoughts? Anyway interesting, if nothing else for how The Warmth of Other Suns has already changed how I think about things.

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