By the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) (March 24, 2010)
With the 2010 Census underway, we throught it would interesting to see what the Latino population count might be given current population estimates and projections by the Census Bureau. Once we get the 2010 Census results at the end of this year or early next year, we can return to these projections to see how close this year's count was.
Back in 2000, the Census Bureau had estimated the Latino population to be 31.4 million. The result of the 2000 Census, however, was greater: 35.3 million.
The latest Census population estimates are for 2008, with an estimated Latino population of 46.9 million. This doesn't include Puerto Rico, which would add another 4.0 million, making the latest Latino population estimate for the United States around 50.9 million. The rationale for adding Puerto Rico is that its residents are U.S. citizens. There are about another million US citizens living in the other US territories (US Virgin Islands, Guam, etc.), but racial-ethnic population projections for these dependencies aren't available (well, we couldn't find them).
The latest Census projection of the Latino population (excluding Puerto Rico) for 2010 is 49.7 million. Adding Puerto Rico would bring this projection for 2010 to about 53.7 million. This would represent 17.1 percent of the total US population. The Census also calculates the high range of these projections, which for Latinos in 2010 is 50.9 million (or 54.9 million including Puerto Rico).
In terms of Latino subgroup estimates, the most recent numbers come from the American Community Survey's 3-year averages for 2006-2008. Although the ACS, which is based on a sample, is not supposed to be used for total population estimates (but rather for comparing the characteristics of the population), it is, alas, one of the best sources available for this purpose.
The ACS estimated the 2008 Latino population to be 45.4 million (excluding Puerto Rico). Adding its estimate for Puerto Rico of 3.9 million brings the Latino total for 2008 to 49.3 million, or 16.2 percent of the total US population in 2008. This Latino figures is 1.6 million below the estimates arrived by the Census division that does the population estimates, which is different from the ACS office.
Including Puerto Rico, Census middle to high range projections of the 2010 Latino population go from 53.7 to 54.9 million. Without Puerto Rico (which is what the Census Bureau will report for the 2010 Census results), the range is from 49.7 to 50.9 million Latinos.
The most recent American Community Survey breakdown of the Latino population based on a 3-year average from 2006 to 2008 is in the table below.