The engine behind the growth in ethnic media remains population, and particularly immigration.
A scan of U.S. Census data is enough show the basic picture. There has been a particularly large increase in immigration among people who are likely to speak languages other than English and rely on ethnic media. The U.S. foreign-born population was about 25 million in 1995.1 By 2004 it was over 34 million, an increase of 36%. Much of that growth came in immigrants from Latin America.2
As they settle, ethnic groups tend to congregate in certain regions or cities, and that, of course, plays a large role in how specific ethnic media develop. When the ethnic communities reach a critical mass, newspapers and radio stations are created to serve them in their own languages. Ethnic businesses need to advertise. And, of course, the larger the community, the more news there is to report about it to its members.
The various ethnic groups have definite footprints. The nation’s Asian population, for instance, is more heavily concentrated in the Western states than any other immigrant group. A full 45% of foreign-born Asians live in that region, according to the Census. Latin American immigrants gravitate to the West to a lesser degree — 39% of their foreign-born population — and to the Southern states, where 36% live. European immigrants, meanwhile, are most likely to live in the Northeast (39%). The Midwest , furthest from the coasts, has the smallest share of any of those ethnicities.3
Hispanics, about three-quarters of whom speak Spanish in the United States , dominate the country’s foreign-born population.4 According to the Census, they are at least 5% of the population in 22 states. And in each of nine states, including the four largest — California , Texas , Florida and New York — Hispanics or Latinos are more than 12.5%. Some of the counties surrounding New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, as well as the Chicago and Denver metro areas, have at least 25% Hispanic populations.5 Those areas are well suited not just for newspapers but for broadcast television as well.
The nation’s Asian population, from countries that speak a number of languages, is smaller and less concentrated. Only 10 states have populations that are greater than 3.6% Asian. And only two of the four biggest states, California and New York , are in that group. Again, that doesn’t mean that Asians living in those places speak a language other than English, but it does mean those places are more likely to support Asian-language media. Other than Hawaii , no U.S. state has an Asian population greater than 12.4%.6 According to the 2000 Census, far more counties are more than 70% Hispanic or Latino than are at least 25% Asian.7
The black, or African-American, population is without question a large force in the U.S. It makes up more than 12% of the population in 16 states and more than 25% in six.8 But that population, by and large not immigrants, largely speaks English. Because of that the black press, TV and radio are used more often as supplements to mainstream news outlets rather than replacements.