From 2000 to 2014, Latinos accounted for more than half of the total population growth in the United States.
On top of that, the U.S. Census projects that the Hispanic population in America will hit 119 million by 2060. Because of this growth, it’s important for funeral professionals to understand the changes ahead and how they will affect their funeral home.
We’ve put together these facts so that you and your funeral home can continue to serve families to the best of your ability and stay competitive even in changing markets.
There are several places in the United States where the Latino population is more condensed than other parts of the country. Not surprisingly, southern states typically have higher populations because they are closer to the border. But there also are large populations in metropolitan areas like Chicago, New York City, and Seattle.
Perhaps most surprising is that the place with the fastest growing Latino population is actually North Dakota. From 2007 to 2014 there were 10 counties with at least an 80% growth rate, one of which had 367% growth. During this time frame, North Dakota’s total Hispanic population nearly doubled to 18,000.
Because of these trends in immigration and migration, funeral directors and funeral home owners need to be cognizant of the growth in their own communities.
Though we’ve seen national Hispanic population growth rates as high as 5.8% annually, the growth has slowed a lot in the last few years. This is largely due to the Great Recession’s impact on things such as employment and even birth rates, which have declined from 95 births per 1,000 Hispanic women to 72 births per 1,000 Hispanic women.
But even with this slowing of growth, the Hispanic population continues to grow in America at a constant rate of around 2.4%. With a total population of 55.4 million Hispanics in America, that means growth will continue to be significant.
Even if your funeral home is in an area where growth is slow, it’s still in your best interest to understand enough about Latino cultures and funeral traditions to be able to serve all your families to the best of your ability.
Diversity Among Latinos
When we think about the Latino population in the United States, we often think of Mexicans first. This is a logical thought process, considering that Mexico borders the United States and Mexicans make up approximately 65% of all Latinos in America.
The problem with this view, though, is that we miss entire populations of other Latinos with different cultures and ideas. Even the way we talk about these cultures is sometimes flawed — in many cases, we use the terms “Latinos” and “Hispanics” interchangeably, but they have different meanings.
Though both refer to peoples from Latin America, “Hispanic” means Spanish-speaking while “Latino” refers to all Latin American peoples, including those from Brazil who speak Portuguese.
Latinos come from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Where different Latinos come from also largely determines where they live in the United States. While southwestern states have high Mexican populations, Cubans make up the largest origin group in Miami; Puerto Ricans are the largest origin group in New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Hartford; and Salvadorans are the largest origin group in Washington, D.C.
It’s important for funeral professionals to be aware of the different Latino populations in their communities so that they understand who their client families are. It’s also important not to group all Latinos together because they have different cultures and traditions.
In most cases, funeral directors and funeral home owners won’t have to worry about language barriers between themselves and Latino families, even if they themselves are not Latino. In 2013, 68% of Hispanics 5 and older spoke English proficiently — up from around 65% in 2010.
But even with a growing number of proficient English speakers, it still might be a good idea for funeral homes in areas with high Hispanic populations to hire someone who speaks Spanish.
The growth of the Latino population in America isn’t exactly new — in fact, there have always been Latinos in the modern United States. One of the major shifts is that a lot of Latinos here today were born here, rather than immigrating here.
This affects all kinds of things within the Latino-American community, like the number of Latinos who speak English proficiently.
This also affects the median age of Hispanics — those who immigrate have a median age of around 40, but U.S.-born Hispanics outnumber them and have a median age of about 19. This puts the median age of all Hispanics in the U.S. at 28, the nation’s youngest major racial/ethnic group.
Though funeral traditions can vary among the different groups of Latinos, one thing many have in common is the prominence of the Roman Catholic faith. A very high majority of Latinos are Catholic, though Protestantism has been growing — especially in Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico.
Along with the Catholic faith comes many funeral traditions, such as the Funeral Mass and the preference for burial rather than cremation.
Because funeral traditions vary from one culture to the next, even within the Latino-American community, it’s important to talk with your families and understand what their wants and needs are.