The American Hispanic population is dispersing across the country, but is still anchored mainly in three states, according to a new study released Thursday.
More than half the U.S. Hispanic population resides in three states: California, Texas and Florida, according to the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.
California is home to the largest Hispanic population -- one in four U.S. Hispanics are also Californians.
Those three states, plus New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey and Colorado, contain three-quarters of the nation's Latino population, according to Pew's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
While those eight states retain a high Hispanic population, new opportunities are beckoning people to the West and South, said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic Research at Pew.
The study points out that over the last decade, some of the fastest growing Latino populations are in the Southeastern United States.
Georgia, for example, experienced an explosive growth, because a housing boom in Atlanta attracted people, Lopez said.
"People are willing to look across the country for new job opportunities and educational opportunities," he explained.
"I think this has huge political implications -- it means that more Latinos will be voting, running for office, and being part of the political culture in many more states."
Other key findings from Pew:
-- New Mexico has the the highest Hispanic population share, among the 50 states and District of Columbia, with 46.7 percent of the state's population counted as Hispanic.
-- Maine, West Virginia and Vermont were among states those with the lowest shares.
-- Nationally, Mexicans are the largest national-origin Latino group in the United, accounting for 65 percent of the Hispanic population.
-- Stewart County in southwest Georgia experienced the most growth in the Hispanic population since 2000, growing 1,754 percent over 11 years.