1 minute read

Cultural Diversity - Hispanics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Cultural Diversity - Lifelong Processes, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Aleuts, And Eskimos, Asian And Pacific Islanders


Looking forward to the middle of the twenty-first century, it will become more difficult to characterize any racial or ethnic group with a simple description. Such is the case for Hispanics and Latinos, the nation's largest minority group, numbering one of every eight Americans in 2000. Most Hispanics are of Mexican (58 percent), Puerto Rican (10 percent), or Cuban descent (4 percent); the remainder are from Central and South America. Hispanics made up 5.6 percent of the older adult population in 2000, but are projected to be 16.4 percent of the older adult population by 2050. Sometime before 2030, the Hispanic population age sixty-five and older will likely outnumber African-American elders.

The diversity of the Hispanic population is mainly due to different immigration histories of the various national-origin groups. Some Mexican Americans' residence in the Southwest predates the formation of the United States. Many others migrated to the United States in order to harvest crops, encouraged by the bracero program of the 1940s and 1950s. These native-born and earlier immigrant Mexicans are now the majority of those reaching old age. The future growth of the Hispanic and Latino elderly population (it will triple by 2050 as a share of all minority elders) will be propelled by larger, recent cohorts of immigrants from Mexico.

If Mexican Americans are still a comparatively young group, the population of Cuban Americans is considerably older. Comprising only 4 percent of the Hispanic population overall, they are 17 percent of the population of older Hispanics. Older Cubans now include the cohort of political refugees who fled the Castro regime in the 1960s. Elderly Puerto Ricans add other special circumstances to the mix of Hispanic seniors. They are a substantial population (11 percent of all Hispanic elders) that does not reside primarily in the South or the West, and their U.S. citizenship allows them to move easily back and forth between the island and the mainland United States (Siegel, 1999).

Additional topics