Latinos Fuel Growth in Decade

By SUDEEP REDDY

In a demographic shift touching every corner of the U.S., the Hispanic population grew faster than expected and accounted for more than half of the nation’s growth over the past decade, with the group’s increase driven by births and immigration.

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The Census Bureau—in its first nationwide demographic tally from the 2010 headcount—said Thursday the U.S. Hispanic population surged 43%, rising to 50.5 million in 2010 from 35.3 million in 2000. Latinos now constitute 16% of the nation’s total population of 308.7 million.

The Census Bureau has estimated that the non-Hispanic white population would drop to 50.8% of the total population by 2040—then drop to 46.3% by 2050. This demographic transformation—Latinos now account for about one in four people under age 18—holds the potential to shift the political dynamics across the country.

“The Hispanic population is under-represented in the electorate and politically because of demographic factors,” including the high share under age 18 and the high number of immigrants, said Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. “Their presence in the electorate will increase over time.”

Nearly 92% of the nation’s population growth over the past decade—25.1 million people—came from minorities of all types, including those who identified themselves as mixed race. Nine million people, or 3%, reported more than one race.

In addition to the 16.3% of people who identified as Hispanic or Latino of any race, 63.7% identified as white; 12.2% identified as black; 4.7% as Asian; and 0.7% as American Indians or Alaska Natives. Other races made up the rest.

States in the South and West posted the sharpest growth rates during the decade, with the population of the West surpassing the Midwest for the first time. More than half the U.S. lived in the 10 most populous states, with about a quarter in the three largest states: California, Texas and New York.

The Census Bureau said the population continued shifting toward the South and West, which together accounted for 84% of the decade’s population growth. The nation’s center of population—the balancing point if all 308 million people weighed the same—moved about 25 miles south to just outside Plato, Mo. In 1790, the year of the first Census, the population center was near Chestertown, Md.

The Census data also showed blacks moving out of big cities in the North and into suburbs and the South, marking more black-white integration.

Two cities, New York and Washington, saw their black populations decline. The District of Columbia notched its first decennial population increase since the 1940s, rising to 601,700 despite an 11% drop in blacks. But the non-Hispanic black population in the nation’s capital was just 50% in 2010, as the non-Hispanic white population jumped almost a third to 209,000.

Orange County Register/Associated PressWorkers in California, a state where Latino population growth has risen.

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New York City’s population inched up 2.1%, bringing the 2010 total to 8.2 million. The city’s non-Hispanic black population declined for the first time since 1860, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. While not substantial, the 5.1 % decline is in line with other urban centers that posted declines, Mr. Frey said. New York City’s growth was fueled by increases in its Asian and Hispanic populations. The city’s white population fell slightly, by 2.8%.

“We’ve moved to an African-American population that, at least for a lot of young people, is becoming much more mainstream than 20 years ago in terms of where they want to live and how they see themselves in American life,” Mr. Frey said. “It’s affecting the way suburbs are growing. It’s changing the way the South is growing.”

The increasing racial diversity among U.S. children underscored a shift that is likely to make whites a minority in the early 2040s. Of the entire Hispanic population, children make up about one-third, compared with one-fifth among whites.

The total number of people under age 18 rose by nearly two million over the decade. But the number of white children fell, while the number of Hispanic children rose sharply. During the decade, Texas alone added 979,000 individuals under age 18, of which 931,000 were Hispanic.

“That can tell you as much as anything how important Hispanics are for the future of children in the United States,” Mr. Frey said. Of the states gaining people, “they owe it to Hispanics.”

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Hispanic population exceeds 50 million, firmly nation’s No. 2 group

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By Michael Martinez and David Ariosto, CNN
March 24, 2011 4:08 p.m. EDT

(CNN) — The growing Hispanic population in the United States has reached a new milestone, topping 50 million, or 16.3% of the nation, officially solidifying its position as the country’s second-largest group, U.S. Census Bureau officials said Thursday.

“Overall, we’ve learned that our nation’s population has become more racially and ethnically diverse over the past 10 years,” said Nicholas A. Jones, chief of the bureau’s racial statistics branch.

Several trends emerged from the 2010 census, according to Robert M. Groves, director of the Census Bureau, and Marc J. Perry, chief of the population distribution branch.

The country is growing at a smaller rate. Growth is concentrated in metropolitan areas and in the American West and South. The fastest-growing communities are suburbs such as Lincoln, California, outside Sacramento. And standard-bearer cities such as Boston, Baltimore and Milwaukee are no longer in the top 20 for population, replaced by upstarts such as El Paso, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, the officials said.

The most significant trend, however, appeared to be the nation’s new count of 50.5 million Latinos, whose massive expansion accounted for more than half of the nation’s overall growth of 27.3 million people, to a new overall U.S. population of 308.7 million, officials said.

The Hispanic population grew 43% since 2000, officials said.

In stark contrast, all other populations together grew by only about 5%, officials said. The nation as a whole expanded by 9.7%.

Bureau officials declined Thursday to say how much illegal immigration has spurred growth among Latinos and other minorities, saying the sources of the growth are still being studied.

“Those are actually very excellent questions,” said Roberto Ramirez, chief of the bureau’s ethnicity and ancestry branch. “We are actually in the middle of the process of investigating that.”

D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer at the Pew Research Center in Washington, said the birth rate, rather than immigration, is the primary driving factor in the Latino boom.

Hispanics now account for nearly one-quarter of children under the age of 18, Cohn said.

“Hispanics are a younger population, and there are just more women of a child-bearing age,” she said.

Although immigration remains a major contributor to Hispanic population growth, the recent recession and high employment rates may have prompted a tapering off in the rate of foreign-born nationals seeking U.S. residence, analysts said.

Intensified border patrols may have reduced illegal immigration, but those measures “remain at the margins,” said William Frey, a demographer at The Brookings Institution.

He added that America’s overall undocumented immigrant population — estimated at between 10 million and 11 million people — may have even declined in recent years, though accurate numbers are difficult to acquire.

While the white population increased by 2.2 million to 196.8 million, its share of the total population dropped to 64% from 69%, officials said.

The Asian population also grew 43%, increasing from 10.2 million in 2000 to 14.7 million in 2010, officials said. Asians now account for about 5% of the nation’s population.

The African-American population, which grew by about 4.3 million, is now about 40 million, or 12.6% of the population, a slight increase over 12.3% in 2000, officials said.

Persons reporting “some other race” grew by 3.7 million, to 19 million, or 5.5% of the nation, figures show.

The vast majority of Americans, 97%, reported only one race, with whites as the largest group, accounting for about seven out of 10 Americans.

The remaining 3% of the population reported multiple races, and almost all of them listed exactly two races. White and black was the leading biracial combination, figures show.

“The face of the country is changing,” said Jeffrey Passel, demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center.

Demographic data had already been released for all states except New York and Maine and for the District of Columbia.

In fast-growing states where whites and blacks dominated past growth, Hispanics are now the greatest growth engine, Frey said.

The significance of the numbers to the United States is more than just an increase of an ethnicity. Research shows that along with the changing demographics, the country has become more diverse in other ways, Passel said. For instance, there is a substantial mixing of the American population through interracial marriage, he said.

Another change is the concentration of the growing populations.

Previously, the Hispanic population was concentrated in eight or nine states; it is now spread throughout the country, Passel said.

Meanwhile, most of the data released so far show decreases in the population of white children, Frey said.

Minorities will have a greater presence among future generations, he said. For example, in Nevada, 61% of children are minorities, compared with 41% of adults.

In border states like Texas, demographers say, Hispanic populations are expected to surpass non-Hispanic populations within the next decade.

“Without question, we are becoming a Hispanic state,” said Texas state demographer Lloyd Potter.

“I live in San Antonio, and there you see Spanish advertisements, television shows and newspapers everywhere,” he said.

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Estudiar idiomas rejuvenece el cerebro (entre otras cosas)

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2 languages make your brain buff

If you had any doubts about exposing your child – or yourself – to a foreign language, there’s more evidence than ever that being bilingual has enormous benefits for your brain.

Scientists presented their research supporting this idea Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

As the human body begins its natural decline in old age, bilinguals seem to maintain better cognitive function, said Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto, Ontario. This is the case even for people with dementia. Bialystok and colleagues have studied many Alzheimer’s patients, both monolinguals and bilinguals. They found that bilinguals were on average four to five years older than monolinguals at comparable points of neurological impairment.

Once Alzheimer’s disease begins to compromise the brain, it appears that bilinguals can continue to function even though there’s damaged tissue, she said.

So what’s going on? One theory is that language learning is an example of “cognitive reserve.” It something that keeps the mind active in the same way as puzzles and games do, and works toward compensating for the build-up of dementia-causing pathology in the brain, Bialystok said.

In terms of starting language learning in middle or old age, the likelihood of becoming truly fluent in a new tongue is low, but it seems that every little bit helps in preventing cognitive decline, she said. And proficiency may be more important than age of acquisition, said Judith Kroll, researcher at Pennsylvania State University, before the conference.

Bilinguals are also better than monolinguals at multitasking, Kroll said. Juggling their languages helps bilinguals ignore irrelevant information and prioritize tasks better than those who only can only speak on tongue, she has found in her research. That makes sense considering that when a bilingual person speaks one language, the other language is still potentially active. That means that speakers of two languages are constantly inhibiting one language in favor of another, which perhaps enhances their overall attentional skills.

Why is it so hard for adults to learn a new language, compared with kids? The answer might not lie entirely in the brain. The social, educational, and other circumstantial conditions are different when an adult gets exposure to language, Bialystok said. As a child, learning a language is pretty much all you do. Adults can’t devote as much time or attention to the experience of picking up a new tongue.

“It’s a change we can deal with as adults if there’s sufficient time and opportunity,” she said.

Are there any downsides to being bilingual? Babies exposed to two languages throughout pregnancy, or who hear two languages in their first days of life, don’t confuse their languages, said Janet Weker of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The scientific evidence suggests bilingual and monolingual kids have similar language development milestones; it appears that children learning two languages do not experience delays in this regard generally.

There is, however, some research suggesting that the competition that’s produced by this mental juggling may introduce a delay in processing. But it’s so small that it’s not something that would be noticeable consciously, Kroll said. It appears that the benefits of being bilingual outweigh the costs.

What are you waiting for? Check out these resources for learning a new language online.

CNN.com (Feb. 22, 2011)


Aprender idiomas es la mejor gimnasia cerebral para prevenir el Alzheimer

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WASHINGTON (EFE).— Aprender idiomas es la mejor gimnasia cerebral que existe, ya que no sólo proporciona la capacidad de comunicarse con otros, sino previene demencias seniles como el Alzheimer, aseguró hoy un panel de expertos en Washington.
Durante la reunión anual de la Asociación Estadounidense para el Avance de la Ciencia (AAAS), los investigadores indicaron que los estudios realizados con individuos en diferentes etapas de aprendizaje, desde los bebes hasta los adultos, han demostrado que las personas bilingües tienen mayores capacidades de concentración y aprendizaje.
“Dicen que los niños que tienen dos idiomas parece que lo tienen más confuso pero eso no es así, ya que desde muy pequeños aprenden a separar los idiomas y evitan las interferencias”, señaló la doctora María Teresa Bajo, del departamento de psicología experimental de la Universidad de Granada.
Los idiomas tienen estructuras diferentes y requieren estructuras cognitivas diferentes, aseguró, pero está demostrado que los niños que aprenden dos idiomas, ya sea castellano y catalán, que tienen una raíz común, o sean dos idiomas totalmente diferentes, inglés y francés, tienen la memoria activa en todo momento.
Esto beneficia a la capacidad de concentración a la hora de realizar una tarea cuando hay otros que interfiere la atención, y ayuda a desarrollar más algunas partes del cerebro.
Según explicó, los niños bilingües son capaces de cambiar de un idioma a otro sin dificultad y a diferencia de quien aprende un idioma de adulto, que tiene que dejar de pensar en uno para centrarse en el otro, ellos mantienen abiertos los dos canales.
Alternar entre las lenguas permite a las personas bilingües ejercer sus mentes de manera más eficaz que las personas que hablan un solo idioma, aseguró.
“Los niños bilingües son capaces de alguna manera de negociar entre la competencia de las lenguas, lo que incrementa sus habilidades cognitivas y les hace más capaces a la hora de realizar varias tareas a la vez”, señaló.
Pero no sólo ser bilingüe, sino también aprender un idioma de adulto puede ayudar a retrasar los efectos del envejecimiento, según explicó la doctora Ellen Bialystok, profesora de Psicología de la Universidad de York en Toronto (Canadá).
Bialystok mostró los resultados de un estudio realizado con 450 pacientes con Alzhemier. La mitad había hablado dos lenguas la mayor parte de su vida y el resto sólo una y encontró que, a las personas que hablaban más de un idioma empezaron a mostrar los síntomas y se les diagnosticó la enfermedad entre 4 y 5 años más tarde.
La doctora coincidió en señalar que una de las razones por las que el bilingüismo es un potente mecanismo de protección de los síntomas de demencia es que mantienen el cerebro activo.
“Son como un gimnasio para el cerebro”, dijo.
Pero Bialystok señaló que no hace falta ser bilingüe para disfrutar de los beneficios que aportan los idiomas ya que incluso aunque se empiece a estudiar a los 50 años o a edades en las que es poco probable que se llegue a ser bilingüe “se está contribuyendo a una reserva cognitiva a través de actividades muy intensas”, dijo.
Los estudios neuronales de las personas bilingües abren una nueva vía para identificar las partes más débiles del cerebro en los adultos a la hora de aprender un idioma y potenciarlas.
En la Universidad de Maryland, los científicos estudian la forma de identificar a los adultos que serían buenos candidatos para dominar un nuevo idioma según explicó la directora adjunta del Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Lingüística, Amy Weinberg.
También están desarrollando métodos para ayudar a mantener y mejorar las habilidades lingüísticas en adultos.
Los panelistas señalaron que otras actividades como completar pasatiempos como sudokus o sopas de letras también ayudan, pero los idiomas son un de las maneras más completas de mantener el cerebro en forma.

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