Adios, Juan and Juanita: Latin Names Trend Down

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... In May, the Pew Hispanic Center released a study of first-, second- and third-generation Hispanics in the U.S. — a look at how the Latin-American population has grown and assimilated over the past three decades. As recently as 1980, just 9% of U.S. kids under 18 were Hispanic, compared with 22% today. Only about a tenth of that population are first-generation Latin Americans — meaning they were born outside the U.S. More than half (52%) are second generation — born in the U.S. to at least one foreign-born parent; and 37% were born in America to American-born parents. By 2025, the study estimates that close to 30% of all American kids will have some Latino ancestry.

What happens, of course, when an immigrant group heads toward assimilation, is that each successive generation gets more educated (82% of first-generation Latin-American kids ages 15 to 17 attend school, compared with 97% of second-generation kids — hardly perfect but moving toward parity) and more proficient in the national language (by the third generation, 95% of Latino kids ages 15 to 17 speak English exclusively or very well). Another thing that happens is that parents start moving away from baby names like Guillermo and closer to names like William. "When [immigrant or later-generation] parents name their children, they are combining their own attachments and affinities with their hopes and aspirations for their children," says Guillermina Jasso, a sociology professor at New York University and a second-generation Hispanic American. The emotional complexity of that cultural changeover means that parents don't just switch from Latin names to English ones in a single go. Rather, says Jasso, they may pass through a three-stage process, "with bilingual names becoming popular for a while. Those are names like Hector and Daniel for boys and Sandra and Cecilia for girls."

The Social Security Administration has tracked the fashions in baby-naming since 1880, and confirms that many such bridge names are currently enjoying an uptick. On the yearly list of 1,000 most popular names, Hector has improved from No. 193 in 1981 to 181st most popular in 2008; Daniel has gone from 12th place to 5th over the past decade; and Cecilia has similarly risen from slot No. 300 to 270. Sandra has bounced around in the top 40 for decades, but since 1990 has inched up from No. 33 to 27...

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Katrina Gulliver - 10/7/2009

I realise it's a quote from the piece in Time, but I was struck by this: "Only about a tenth of that population are first-generation Latin Americans — meaning they were born outside the U.S."
So, before they arrive in the US, people in Latin America are NOT Latin American?