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Latinos in Memphis and in Tennessee Marcela Mendoza, Ph.D. Center For Research on Women The University of Memphis Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group 37 million Latinos in the nation: 4.7 % population growth since the last count in 2000.

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latinos in memphis and in tennessee
Latinos in Memphis and in Tennessee

Marcela Mendoza, Ph.D.

Center For Research on Women

The University of Memphis

latinos are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group
Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group
  • 37 million Latinos in the nation:
  • 4.7 % population growth since the last count in 2000.
  • This projected growth does not include 3.8 million Puerto Ricans.
what does it mean latino and hispanic
What does it mean “Latino” and “Hispanic”?
  • These are interchangeable terms.
  • The terms refer to the same people.
  • They convey different notions of identity.
  • Their use is a matter of personal preference or circumstance.
  • Hispanic is derived from the Latin word Hispania.
  • U.S. Census Bureau used “Hispanic” as an ethnic category for the first time in 1980.
  • People who proudly link their heritage to Spain, by birth or ancestry, call themselves Hispanics.
  • Is a more inclusive term for people of indigenous (Native American), European, African, and Asian descent in Latin America.
  • People who want to distance themselves from a history of conquest and colonialism call themselves Latinos.
  • It’s an attempt to self-definition.
hispanic latino
  • The terms describe people who trace their origins to Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, as well as
  • Speakers of Latin-derived languages, such as Brazilians and Haitians.
cultural differences
Cultural differences
  • Latinos represent many countries of origin.
  • Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban Americans are the predominant groups.
  • Cultural and linguistic differences distinguish each nationality.
  • Many Latinos in the U.S. speak only English.
latino hispanic ethnic group
Latino/Hispanic = ethnic group
  • Neither term should be used as a racial designation.
  • Both reflect the whole spectrum of what Americans define as “racial groups,” often among members of the same family.
ethnicity and race in u s census
Ethnicity and race in U.S. Census
  • Federal government considers race & Hispanic origin as two separate, distinct concepts.
  • 2000 U.S. Census, asked the question “Hispanic origin” before “race.”
  • On “race,” respondents could mark one or more racial categories.
  • Both are based on self-identification.
caution must be used on racial composition over time
Caution must be used on racial composition over time
  • Because of these changes, Census 2000 data on race are not directly comparable with data from earlier censuses.
  • Use caution when interpreting the racial composition of the U.S. population over time.
latinos are not talking about race
Latinos are not talking about race
  • A man from El Salvador said: “I strongly consider myself an American. By saying I’m American, I’m not talking about race, I’m talking about a state of mind. I owe this country a lot of things.”

(Quoted in Now That I’m Here,  2003 Public Agenda)

latinos are not talking about race13
Latinos are not talking about race
  • As one Mexican man put it: “I think like American, but I’m Mexican.”

(Quoted in Now That I’m Here,  2003 Public Agenda)

ethnic mobility
Ethnic mobility
  • Changes in ethnic boundaries & in declared ethnic affiliation of people over time result in a phenomenon labeled as ethnic mobility.
  • Changes in size that cannot be explained by demographic flow (births, deaths, migration) or differential undercount.
differential undercount
Differential undercount
  • The 1990 U.S. Census missed 5.2% of Hispanics & 4.8% of blacks compared to 1.7% of whites.
  • Little is known about why this differential undercount occurs.
census undercount focus
Census undercount focus
  • Neighborhood characteristics (vacancy & abandonment rate, crime).
  • Household features (composition & home language).
  • Individuals’ attributes (age, gender, immigration status, English proficiency & literacy).

All correlate with census omission

2000 u s census undercount
2000 U.S. Census undercount
  • Undercount is estimated to be less than 2% in 2000.
  • Those missed are disproportionately poor and members of minorities.
what do we know about the undercount of latinos
What do we know about the undercount of Latinos?
  • The U.S. Census undercounted 5 % of Hispanic children.
  • In the South, children show significantly higher undercount rates than the total population.
  • Undercount is much higher among Hispanic renters in large urbanized areas.
undercount of latinos
Undercount of Latinos
  • On Census Day, respondents are asked to provide complete & accurate roster of people who live at a given address.
  • The respondent must be capable & willing to follow census guidelines.
undercount of latinos20
Undercount of Latinos
  • To the extent that respondents have trouble reading, difficulty with the language in the form, or live in a household structure that does not fit the guidelines, coverage errors are likely to occur.
  • These errors may disproportionately affect children.
undercount of latinos21
Undercount of Latinos
  • In situations where several families live together to share rent, but do so against housing contract rules, the respondent may not be willing to report members who do not appear on the lease.
  • Housing units are missed because they are not listed (e.g. trailer parks).
latinos in nashville and memphis 1980 2000




Latino Population

Latino (% of total)

Latino (% of total)

Latino (% of total)

Nashville MSA

5,500 (1%)

7,250 (1%)

40,139 (3%)

Memphis MSA

8,784 (1%)

7,546 (1%)

27,520 (2%)

Latinos in Nashville and Memphis, 1980-2000
latinos in nashville and memphis

% Change Latino Population


Nashville MSA


Memphis MSA


Latinos in Nashville and Memphis
memphis area latinos under age 18


Latinos Under 18 (%), 1990

Latinos Under 18 (%), 2000

Tipton Co. TN

0.9 %


Shelby Co. TN

0.8 %


Crittenden Co. AR



Fayette Co. TN



De Soto Co. MS



Memphis area Latinos under age 18
latinos in memphis 2000
Latinos in Memphis, 2000
  • The Hispanic/Latino population (27,364) of the Memphis MSA exceeded demographer’s projections.
  • Most Hispanics (23,364) live in Shelby County = 265 % increase 1990-2000.
hispanic demographics
Hispanic demographics
  • Enrollment of Hispanic students in Memphis and Shelby Co. public schools tripled between 1993-2000.
  • Births to mothers who list their place of origin as Mexico increased 523% during 1994 and 2000.
  • According to U.of M. researchers, Latinos in Memphis could double the census count.
latinos by origin 2000

City of Memphis

Shelby Co.


Total Latino

Population (%)

19,317 (100%)

23,364 (100%)

123,838 (100%)


72.9 %



Puerto Rican








Other Latino




Latinos by origin, 2000
latino demographics 2000
Latino demographics, 2000
  • Employment and family reunification explain why Latinos are settling in Memphis.
  • Half of all Latinos in Shelby Co. are foreign-born, one-third arrived after 1995.
  • 69% of Latinos in Shelby Co. are of Mexican origin.
latino demographics 200034
Latino demographics, 2000
  • Latinos in Shelby County are predominantly male.
  • Most men are young (26 median age).
  • Most men have less than 9th grade education.
latino demographics 200035
Latino demographics, 2000
  • 38 % of the Latino population is female.
  • Women are young (24 median age) and better educated than men.
  • Most women are married (75%) and live in large family households with their spouse present.
latino demographics 200036
Latino demographics, 2000
  • Near half of all married-couple Latino families have children under 18 living at home:
  • 2.8% of all children under 18 in Shelby County are Hispanic, compared to 0.8% in 1990.
latino demographics 200037
Latino demographics, 2000
  • In Shelby County, 64% of Hispanics older than 5 speak Spanish at home.
  • 11% do not speak English at all.
  • 23% speak only English.
latino demographics 200038
Latino demographics, 2000
  • Latinos are concentrated in 65 census tracts (out of 218), where the majority of Latino residents speak Spanish at home.
  • In those tracts, Latino men have the highest rate of labor force participation, while women have the lowest rate, compared to other population groups.
latino workers in shelby co 2000
Latino workers in Shelby Co. 2000
  • The number of hours worked per week (35 or more) does not vary by gender, national origin, or immigration status.
  • Latino men’s median earnings: $22,291
  • Latino women’s median earnings: $21,164
latino working poor
Latino working poor
  • Despite the fact that many recent Latino immigrants live in low to moderate income households, adult usage of government safety-net programs intended to help the working poor is minimal.
latino demographics 200043
Latino demographics, 2000
  • When household members pull resources together, their income situates them above poverty level:
  • Median household income for Hispanic householders (1999) in Shelby County was $36,319.
latino demographics 200044
Latino demographics, 2000
  • However, the average income for Latino households (when individual earnings are combined as household income) is $52,509.
latino homeowners
Latino homeowners
  • Latinos are increasingly becoming homeowners in Shelby County and the nation as well.
  • In 2000, the average home value for Latino homeowners was: $ 98,633.
latino middle class
Latino middle-class
  • About half of all Latino households have low to moderate income (low income = less than twice the federal poverty line, which is $16,700 for a family of four).
  • The other half of Latino households are included in a burgeoning middle-class.
more information at the u of m
Marcela Mendoza


Ph.: 901/678-2642

Luchy Sepúlveda Burrell

REDC/City & Regional Planning

Ph.: 901/678-2056

More information at The U. of M.