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Houston Latinos play outsized role in growing region’s economy, study says


Greater Houston Latinos have played an outsized role in growing the region’s economy in recent years, according to a study published this week.

From 2018 to 2021, Latinos were responsible for 68.3% of the metropolitan area’s gross domestic product growth despite making up about 40% of the population.

The study, funded by Bank of America, found the share of Latinos in the Houston metro’s labor force grew by 39% from 2010 to 2021, compared to only 14% for non-Latinos in the same period. Researchers from California Lutheran University and UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture produced the analysis.

“Those increased numbers have allowed the region to grow and prosper, and jobs have been brought to these areas and businesses,” said longtime Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Laura Murillo. She added that Houston suburbs with growing Latino populations, such as Katy and Spring, are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the growth.

Researchers cited Greater Houston’s young Latino population to explain the economic boost in recent years. (About a third of the city’s Hispanic population is under 18, and 43% is between 18 and 44, according to the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.)

The Cal Lutheran and UCLA study said the metro’s coming-of-age Latinos are “overwhelmingly” second- and third-generation Americans, and the number of Latinos with a bachelor’s degree grew at a rate 2.9 times that of non-Latinos from 2010-21.

These shifts, though more evident in the Houston area, have also played out on larger scales despite the disproportionately high mortality rates Latinos faced in the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study said that in 2021, Latinos contributed $581.2 billion to the Texas economy, with the top sectors being finance and real estate, government, professional and business services, mining and quarrying, and construction.

And across the country, the Latino population’s total economic output in 2021 was $3.2 trillion. The Latino GDP grew by 7.1% that year, about 2% more than that of non-Latinos.

Murillo said she hopes studies like this will influence how companies, from small businesses to large corporations, market toward and hire Latino consumers and workers. The purchasing power of U.S. Latinos reached $3.4 trillion in 2021, according to an Arizona State University study published last year.

“I can’t imagine there’s a corporation that can afford to overlook 45% of the demographic,” she said, referring to Latinos’ large share of Houston’s population. “And these are not anecdotal stories. These are hard facts. It’s data.”

A recent census data release revealed that the Houston metropolitan area grew by almost 140,000 last year, with Harris County accounting for more than a third of that growth.

Although the U.S. Census Bureau won’t release more detailed demographic information — such as population by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin — until this summer, the data shows much of the county’s population growth was fueled by international migration.

More than 41,100 immigrants moved to Harris County last year, second in the country only to Florida’s Miami-Dade County. We won’t know exactly how much Latinos contributed to that population growth until June, but Murillo sees a clear trend.

“As go Hispanics, so goes Houston,” Murillo said. “And the rest of the country for that matter.”


As published by the Houston Chronicle: