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Posted 14 May 2001   For week ended May 11, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 12May01

By Kent Larsen

Census, Study Hint at Number of LDS Hispanics

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- The combination of a major study of the Hispanic population in the US with recently released US census results may give a partial picture of the size and characteristics of the LDS Hispanic population in the US. Last week Vanguard University, located in Southern California, released its study of US Hispanics, part of a three-year study funded by the Pew Charitable Trust. This week, the US Census Bureau released initial figures on Hispanics in Utah, a group that has increased by 140% in the past ten years.

The census data shows that the Hispanic population in the US is growing quickly, increasing 58% in the 1990s. But with the growth in Utah twice that of the country as a whole, local officials and statisticians are looking for an explanation. LDS Church affiliation may be part of the answer. "People move here, then bring their families, then bring their extended families," says Neil Ashdown, Utah's director of demographic and economic analysis. "The church is a strong connection, but employment is the primary driver." The country of origin of the Hispanic population may also show the LDS Church's influence on immigration, since the proportion of Hispanics in Utah that are not from Mexico is growing at the same rate as those from Mexico.

Mormon News' analysis shows that this same growth is seen among LDS congregations. The number of LDS stakes in the US that have Spanish-speaking wards or branches increased by about 60% in the 1990s, about the same rate as the Hispanic population as a whole. Similarly, in Utah the number of LDS stakes with Spanish-speaking congregations increased by roughly 120% during the decade.

Meanwhile, the Vanguard University study, based on a telephone poll of 2,300 Hispanics living in the US, puts an actual estimate on the Mormon Hispanic population. The estimate, which is based on the number of respondents that identified themselves as Mormon, indicates a population of 207,000 Hispanics in the US that identify themselves as Mormon. Researchers said that this shows more Hispanics are Mormon than United Methodist.

Surprisingly, Hispanics in the US are only about 70% Catholic, the study shows, with a majority of non-Catholic Hispanics (61%) belonging to evangelical Christian churches. "Most people are unaware of this," said the study's project manager, Gaston Espinosa. "The average person says, 'That person's Mexican. He must be Catholic.' But more than one in four are not."

But the study goes further, showing that Hispanic affiliation changes the longer they stay in the US. One of the researchers, Harry Pachon of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, describes religiosity among Hispanics as a "U-shaped curve," with Church attendance by Hispanics declining in the second generation and rebounding in the third. "You're going to have that giant second generation that is going to be really at a moral and religious quandary," Pachon said. "That may be where your Protestant faiths have been making such a large inroad."

Even more surprising is that in spite of changing religion, Hispanics don't change their politics. Hispanics that are not Catholic and those that are show very similar voting patterns, favoring government intervention to provide fundamental needs like heath care, even if the recipient is not in the country legally. One of the study's directors, Rev. Virgilio Elizondo, says that the study shows a common social vision regardless of religious denomination. "There's ... very little significant difference in the way we relate to the social and civic life of this country," Elizondo said. "You might say that blood and ethnicity is much, much stronger than anything else."


Varied faiths, united vision
Chicago Tribune (Religion News Service) 11May01 N4
By Ted Parks: Religion News Service
Latinos may shift religions, but not politics, study says

Hispanic religious shift unexpected
Orange co CA Register 4May01 N1
By Jim Hinch and Rachanee Srisavasdi: The Orange County Register
Experts attribute rising number of Protestants to assimilation, evangelicals.

Nation's Latinos Mostly Still Hail From Mexico
Salt Lake Tribune 10May01 D4
By Joe Baird and Shawn Foster: Salt Lake Tribune

Mexican-Americans 68% of Utah Latinos
Ogden UT Standard-Examiner (AP) 11May01 N1
Associated Press


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