The Assimilation of Hispanics in Virginia

Source: WalletHub

by James A. Bacon

WalletHub strikes again, this time compiling an ingenious set of statistics to measure Hispanic assimilation in American culture. One surprising finding (surprising to me, at least) is that Virginia ranks 8th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., in the degree to which Hispanics are assimilated, as gauged by a mix of cultural, educational and economic metrics.

Virginia stands out for the “economic” assimilation of Hispanics, ranking No. 2 in the country. WalletHub measures economic assimilation by earned income, labor force participation, unemployment and poverty rates, and home and business ownership rates.

The Old Dominion ranks 17th nationally by cultural and civic affiliation, which reflects English language proficiency, the percentage of foreign-born Hispanics who are naturalized citizens, veteran status, and voter engagement.

But the state ranks only 23rd nationally for educational assimilation, a ranking that incorporates the percentage of Hispanics who graduated from high school and college, NAEP scores, ACT scores and SAT scores.

Vermont has the highest overall assimilation ranking in the country, and West Virginia the second highest. In Vermont, Hispanics comprised only 1.6% of the population in 2012, and only 1.3% in West Virginia. So, I wondered, was the assimilation rate mainly a function of the Hispanic percentage of the population? It stands to reason that the pressures to assimilate are much higher in communities where Hispanics are a tiny minority than where they can form their own communities and preserve their culture.

So, I ran a correlation analysis of each state’s WalletHub rank with the percentage of Hispanics in each state’s population. I was surprised to see how weak the correlation was:


The R² is only 0.0933, meaning that less than 10% of the variation in assimilation by state can be explained by the size of the Hispanic population within that state. For what it’s worth, Virginia (the red diamond) has a much better rank (closer to 1) than would be predicted by the percentage of Hispanics in its population. But other variables are probably far more important.

One variable worth exploring would be country of origin. Florida ranks high in Hispanic assimilation (6th highest in the country) even though Hispanics accounted 23% of the population in 2012. That probably can be explained by the large number of Cubans, many of whom were educated when they emigrated to the United States. Similarly, Puerto Ricans emigrating to the United States have a different profile than Mexicans, Central Americans, Brazilians and Venezuelans.

Another possibility is the diversity of countries of origins. In California, for example, the Hispanic population is largely Mexican. Mexicans in the Golden State bond with one another and form culture-perpetuating communities more easily than can, say, a mix of Cubans, Brazilians and Ecuadorans.

Of course, my operating assumption is that assimilation is a good thing. I want to see Hispanics (well, the ones who came here legally) move into the cultural, economic and political mainstream. Not everyone shares that goal. Some Hispanics are militant about preserving their cultural identity, as is their right. Also, the ideology of “cultural diversity” looks upon assimilation as a form of cultural imperialism. Some people want to keep Americans divided by race and ethnicity for the purpose of political exploitation.

However it happened, Hispanics appear to be assimilating reasonably well in Virginia.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. Typo in type. “The R² is only 0.933” should read 0.0933 per the graph.

  2. Your analysis correctly shows there is no such things as a “Hispanic”. If you call a Puerto Rican a Mexican, it is a fighting word. The same with many of the other countries mentioned. So while it is a convenient word for those engaged in racial politics (like our current White House occupants), it is actually an unfair racist name. These are human beings and should be treated as such.

    By the way, the high income of “Hispanics” in Virginia would be primarily attributable to the large number of federal employees living in the state as the federal government hires a much higher population of minorities than anyone else. And since the feds pay more than most employers for similar work, it skews the numbers upward.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Totally agree with JohnBRs’ assessment – not at all sure what the infatuation is with “assimilation” but as the younger generation advances – we may see less concern about it.

    not sure about the WH comment.. I suspect they are more supportive of immigrants and less concerned about “assimilation” than those who are fairly vocal about immigration now days.

    we could fix the illegal immigration issue with one law – a guest worker law that puts in jail any employer who violates it and not have one word demonizing those who came here for work and opportunity.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Another good solution would be to deny a federal income tax deduction for wage and any other compensation to any person not verifying eligibility to work in the U.S based on citizenship or lawful presence including a guest worker permit. Then put out a non-taxable reward to anyone who turns in anyone that is found to be in violation of the tax law.

      Remember income tax fraud was how they got Al Capone.

  4. Oh brother… There already is a guest worker law. No one follows it. In fact there are several types of guest worker laws. For instance, an upper middle class student attending the Philippine version of Harvard University pays 4 grand to come here so they can live in an over charged by the week studio sized shit hole with 7 other students to dole out ice cream for hours on end. Oh and they pay SS taxes on their meager wages too. Gotta keep it legal don’t ya know.

    After 90 days they go to JFK to fly home and are replaced by 8 Eastern European students. All for the privilege of learning about “assimilating into American culture.” If they are lucky they got to see something of America. Like one day at Busch Gardens.

    Wanna know what they were discussing while waiting for the Chinese bus to take them to a subway stop in NYC? The tourist visa that they can’t get in Manila, and the fact that Latinos are lucky because they can simply cross the border.

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Growing up in California fifty years ago I always appreciated how well the Hispanics had assimilated us….

    The Pope is no slouch of a politician. Choosing to canonize Father Serra at this time and on a US visit was a subtle (perhaps too subtle) reminder to the Northern Europeans that St. Augustine was settled half a century before Jamestown and the Conquistadors were consolidating California while we were squabbling with the redcoats. Seriously, who is assimilating whom?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well, no talking about temporary worker VISA programs per se for non-Latinos, as some of them are, in my view, clearly predatory …. but also much better enforced than guest worker laws for Latinos from Mexico. How many “illegal” non-Latinos do we hear about?

    but the reason why Guest Worker programs don’t work in the US (but DOES work in Canada) is because we do not enforce serious sanctions on employers who violate the rules. Instead, we demonize those coming here and we’re never going to stop that as long as they know
    they can get a job once they get here.

    We need an environment where employers KNOW that if they hire illegals – it’s going to cost them far more than they’d ever save in labor costs. Make it like violations of pollution laws or safety laws. Put a fine of $1000.00 a day or more for each violation – and collect it – even if the business goes broke. Make a public example of the ones who flaunt the law.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I think there are huge numbers of non-Hispanics in the country illegally. And many from overstaying visas. It further seems to me that there is a belief that, generally, the Hispanics here illegally are a lot poorer than others here illegally and that, by and large, poor people are sucking up large amounts of tax dollars in the form of government services, especially when they have children born in the U.S. who clearly qualify for services under existing laws. It would be interesting to see some unbiased data on how much members of recognizable groups cost.

      Also, there is a clear separation between who receives the benefits of hiring workers not allowed to work in the U.S. and those paying for the associated costs. The workers themselves obviously benefit. Those who can hire workers at below market compensation benefit. And those who purchase goods and services from such companies may benefit in the form of lower prices. So do government workers as more education, social service and corrections jobs are needed.

      Local taxpayers clearly incur higher costs because low-income, less educated, and non-English speaking workers are in their communities. Without acknowledging that many are here illegally or only because their parents are here illegally, Fairfax County Public Schools officials have stated on many occasions that their operating costs are much higher than if we didn’t have large number of children who “have great needs.” A PC term for connected with illegal immigration. Criminal justice costs are higher. And illegal immigration also often results in unlawful boarding houses, illegal home businesses; and tax evasion. I think much of this split between those who receive benefits and those who pay higher costs are fueling some of the support for Trump.

      I fully agree with Larry that a guest worker program that protects both the worker and the public could be operated successfully if both Parties had not sold out to special interests favoring illegal immigration. We need aggressive enforcement against businesses violating the law. Permit private lawsuit that include attorneys fees if successful and much of the problem will go away. Enforcement with a fair guest worker program that protects both the public and the workers will do a lot to fix things and detoxify the political arena.

      1. I sure don’t agree we should keep those well-educated middle-class English-speaking Syrian refugees out of the United States; we ought to be soliciting as many as possible to come here! Not as guest workers but as permanent green-carded residents.

        The Pope was absolutely correct to remind us our ancestors all immigrated here. But beyond moral obligation, if we don’t have the sense to grant a preference to those immigrants whose net contribution to our economy will be most positive, fie on us! Of course, that implies we need a way to weigh this and to keep the less-positive contributors out. But our current immigration process, based on cultural attitudes and quotas frozen in time 100 years ago, is grossly counterproductive in light of the needs of today’s United States.

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          I tend to agree. We need immigrants with good educations and valuable skills. Not only will they be able to support their families, but also contribute to economic and social growth.

          But we don’t need to import poverty. We have enough poor people now. This is not the mid-1800s where America needed more strong backs. We need people who will easily contribute more than their costs. And that requires immigrants who are educated and skilled wherever they come from originally.

          I do disagree about 100 year old quotas. The 1965 immigration bill changed quotas dramatically.

Leave a Reply