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Wisconsin's Latino population 1980–2010

Wisconsin’s Latino population is 74 percent larger and significantly more homegrown today than it was at the beginning of the century, according to a report by University of Wisconsin-Madison demographers.

The number of Latinos residing in Wisconsin increased from 193,000 to 336,000 between 2000 and 2010, and the share of them who were born in Wisconsin rose from 40 percent to 45 percent, according to the report by UW-Madison’s Applied Population Laboratory. The share born outside the U.S. dropped from 40 percent to 36 percent, while the portion born in other states remained around 20 percent.

Latino population growth by county, 2000–2010
Latino population growth by county, 2000–2010

Ninety percent of Wisconsin’s Latinos live in urban counties – 37 percent in Milwaukee County alone – compared to about 70 percent of all Wisconsin residents, the report notes. But while relatively few Latinos live in rural areas, some of the highest rates of growth are occurring far from urban centers. In Trempealeau County the Latino population rose from 240 to 1,667, a six-fold increase. In Lafayette County it went from 92 to 522, a five-fold increase.

“In many rural counties, in-migration by Latinos has stemmed population declines and filled gaps in the labor market caused by young non-Hispanic whites moving out,” says David Long, one of the report’s authors.

The 58-page report, Latinos in Wisconsin: A Statistical Overview, uses graphics and text to provide a statistical portrait of Latinos across the state, with details on factors such as income, employment, education, language proficiency, housing and health insurance. There’s also a companion set of Latino Population Briefs, one for every county.

“Most of the people who are doing community programming with Latinos, such as service providers and educators, are interested in local characteristics and trends,” Long says. “The county profiles offer a way to drill down a little deeper to a more local level.”

Population shares by age and sex, Wisconsin 2010
Population shares by age and sex, Wisconsin 2010

Among other findings in the report:

-The age distribution of Latinos differs markedly from that of the state as a whole. While the biggest age groups in the general population consist of baby boomers – ages 46-64 – the largest among Latinos are children under age 10.

-Trends in education are in the right direction, but Latinos still lag behind the general population. “The estimated share of Latinos with less than a high school diploma declined from 45 percent to 40 percent, but that’s still four times greater than the share of the total population without a diploma,” Long notes.

-Latinos make up 18 percent of the student population in the state’s urban school districts and 6 percent in both suburban and rural districts. The Delavan-Darien school district has the highest proportion of Latino students (44 percent), followed by Abbotsford (35 percent).

-The poverty rate among Latinos is more than twice that of the overall population, and the median income for Latino households in 2010 was only 72 percent of that of all Wisconsin households.  That’s a bigger gap than a decade ago, when Latino households’ income was 80 percent of that of all Wisconsin households.

-Latinos comprise a growing share of the Wisconsin labor force and are particularly concentrated in service occupations, but unemployment rates among Latino men and women remain about 50 percent higher than for the population as a whole.

-The share of Wisconsin Latinos who speak only Spanish or speak English “not well” declined from 21 percent to 17 percent, although absolute numbers in this category increased.  About half of the state’s Latinos speak Spanish at home but speak English “well” or “very well,” while about a third speak only English at home.

Data in the report came from the 2010 census and the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and various state agencies. Both reports are available online at www.apl.wisc.edu.

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