The Latino population has been growing for years in Massachusetts. Now a new report, by the Mauricio Gaston Institute at UMass Boston, projects that Latinos will comprise 15 percent of the state’s population by 2035.
Phillip Granberry, the senior researcher of the report, attributes the trend to higher fertility rates rather than international migration.
Amid a fraught national debate over race, Granberry said he felt compelled to dig for updated figures because the lack of data on minority populations can perpetuate racial inequality.
He presented the information recently to the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus in hopes of persuading representatives to make changes in economic development and education geared toward the growing Latino population.
“It was something we thought was important for the state,” Granberry said. “We focus on education. If the Latino population is going to be born in the US, then the educational system is responsible for educating this population.”
The data from the new report came from projections from the 2010 Census and recent data from the American Community Survey.
Already, about 70 percent of the Latino population currently living in Massachusetts are native-born.
The report estimates that births, rather than migration or immigration, will account for more than half of the projected increase, which over the next 16 years would add about 270,000 Latinos in the state.
The average fertility rate measures the total number of births a woman has in her lifetime. The rate for Massachusetts women overall is 1.5, but for Latinos it is 2.0.
Still, the report predicts 154,114 Latinos will come to the state through international immigration by 2035. Demographic patterns in the past reveal most come from Central America.
The report also focuses on domestic migrants, or people who move to Massachusetts from other parts of the country. Granberry estimates that by 2035, Latino domestic migrants will number 94,521 in Massachusetts.
State Representative Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield was among the group invited to hear about Granberry’s findings. He noted Massachusetts needs policies that favor Latino microbusinesses and that call for hiring more people of color.
“We have to start to have the workforce reflect the population,” Gonzalez said. “That includes in management and administration positions.”
As the Globe reported last year, barriers in the Massachusetts Latino community persist. The gap for median incomes between Latino households and white households is the largest in the country. Dual-language programs are limited.
Eneida Roman, cofounder of advocacy groups Amplify Latinx and The Latina Circle, said the report highlights the need for increased attention to problems Latino students face in the classroom.
“Education is the great equalizer,” Roman said. “If our kids are not educated, they cannot move forward to a career, and we’ll still see those wealth gaps that we see now.”
The racial divide hasn’t gone unnoticed, however. In 2017, Governor Charlie Baker signed a law allowing school systems to teach students in their native language while they gain fluency in English. Baker also formed an advisory commission on Latino affairs.
Gonzalez hopes lawmakers use the new report immediately.
“We don’t have to wait for that population growth,” Gonzalez said. “We should start planning now.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Eneida Roman, cofounder of advocacy groups Amplify Latinx and The Latina Circle. The Globe regrets the error.