Coming to America can be a challenge for immigrants. Adapting to a new way of life is another — and sometimes more painful. The process involves far more than learning the dominant language and counting money in the local currency. But subsequent generations often are able to skip those difficult steps. “Full integration into U.S. society and economy generally takes more than one generation, with children of immigrants reliably outperforming their parents in educational attainment, occupational status, wealth, and home ownership,” according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Today, Hispanics are the third fastest-growing minority group behind individuals claiming two or more races. And much of their growth in the past decade-plus has been fueled by natural U.S. births. Assuming the MPI’s observation is correct, areas reporting the greatest numbers of U.S. births among Hispanics theoretically should reflect the group’s successful integration.
Integration, however, can be both positive and negative. Although it allows children of immigrants to more easily navigate U.S. bureaucracy, education and financial systems, many would argue that integration also can lead to a loss of cultural heritage.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia to measure how well Hispanics have adapted to mainstream American society relative to where they live. In making such a comparison, we examined each state and the District according to 17 key indicators of integration, ranging from “English proficiency” to “educational attainment” to “Hispanic homeownership rate.” Continue reading below for our findings, additional expert commentary and a full description of our methodology.
‘Cultural & Civic Integration’ Rank
‘Educational Integration’ Rank
‘Economic Integration’ Rank
|46||District of Columbia||34.65||8||51||37|
Ask the Experts
Integration into American society has been easier for some Hispanics than for others. For additional insight regarding this rapidly growing ethnic minority group and advice on how policymakers can ease the adaptation process for immigrants, we turned to a panel of experts in such fields as Hispanic/Latino studies and immigration. Click on their profiles below to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
- Are Hispanics gaining entry into some industries faster than in others?
- What are the major causes of the racial wealth gap between Hispanic households and white or Asian households?
- How might immigration reform — including a potential pathway to citizenship — influence Hispanic integration?
- What can state and local authorities do to help Hispanic families integrate?
- In evaluating the states where Hispanics are most integrated, what are the top five indicators?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine which states are home to the most integrated Hispanics, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Cultural & Civic Integration, 2) Educational Integration and 3) Economic Integration.
We evaluated these categories using 17 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 indicating the highest level of Hispanic integration.
We then calculated overall scores for each state and the District using the weighted average across all metrics, which we then used to construct our final ranking.
For every metric except “English Proficiency,” we measured Hispanics’ integration against “whites” as the benchmark, considering that whites represent the majority of the population. For instance, we subtracted the percentage of Hispanics with at least a bachelor’s degree from the percentage of whites with the same attributes. By examining the difference between Hispanics and whites in each state for a given metric, we avoided penalizing a state that, using the aforementioned metric again as an example, may be predominantly blue-collar and consequently may not have a high percentage of bachelor’s degree holders.
Cultural & Civic Integration – Total Points: 33.33
- English Proficiency of Hispanics: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of the Hispanic population who speak only English at home or who speak Spanish at home but have the ability to speak English very well.
- Veteran Status of Hispanics: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Hispanic Voter Turnout (Presidential Election): Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the percentage of Hispanics who voted in the 2012 presidential election.
- Hispanic Voter Turnout (Midterm Election): Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the percentage of Hispanics who voted in the 2014 midterm election.
- Hispanic Voter Registration (Presidential Election): Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the percentage of Hispanics who were registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election.
- Hispanic Voter Registration (Midterm Election): Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the percentage of Hispanics who were registered to vote in the 2014 midterm election.
Educational Integration – Total Points: 33.33
- Percentage of Hispanics with at Least a Bachelor’s Degree: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
- Public High School Graduation Rate of Hispanic Students: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
- Standardized-Test Scores of Hispanic Students: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This metric refers to math and reading standardized-test scores reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
- Average SAT & ACT Test Scores of Hispanic Students: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Economic Integration – Total Points: 33.33
- Earned Income: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
Note: This metric measures the median annual income of Hispanics, adjusted by cost of living.
- Hispanic Labor-Force Participation Rate: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Hispanic Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Hispanic Homeownership Rate: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Hispanic Poverty Rate: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of Hispanics whose income in the past 12 months was at or below poverty level.
- Hispanic-Owned Businesses: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Percentage of Hispanic Executives: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Center for Educational Statistics, College Board, ACT and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.