Study Finds Just How Many Americans Live Near Mexican Restaurant


The popularity of cuisine from south of the border has become so prevalent in the United States that a whopping 99 percent of Americans now live in close proximity to a Mexican restaurant.

The stats come from Pew Research Center analysis of data from Yelp and SafeGraph, the latter of which curates high-quality, up-to-date data to help organizations understand changing market trends. The research found that about 11 percent of restaurants in the country serve Mexican food, and that 85 percent of U.S. counties have at least one Mexican restaurant.

However, the 15 percent of counties that don’t have Mexican restaurants also tend to be sparsely populated, accounting for only about 4 million total people; or 1 percent of the U.S. population.

California and Texas alone account for nearly 40 percent of all Mexican restaurants in the U.S., as the two states are home to the highest-density population of Mexican Americans. Los Angeles County in California is home to more than 5,400 Mexican restaurants alone, accounting for about 30 percent of the state’s total. Meanwhile in Texas, 17 percent are in Harris County where Houston is located.

All in all, Mexican restaurants account for 22 percent of all dining establishments in New Mexico, 20 percent in Texas, 18 percent in Arizona, and 17 percent in California.

A deeper analysis of the data likewise found that 22 percent of nationwide Mexican restaurants are considered fast-food, with 12 percent serving tacos, 8 percent classified as food trucks or carts, and 6 percent offering Tex-Mex.

Perhaps contributing to the growing popularity is that Mexican cuisine also tends to be modestly priced. Going by Yelp’s four-point pricing scale, 61 percent are rated with just one “dollar sign,” while just 251—or less than 1 percent of Mexican restaurants nationwide—have a rating of three or more dollar signs on the scale.

Ultimately the trend points to a growing population of Mexican Americans which reflects a growing influence on U.S. culture.

“Mexican cuisine really is ubiquitous across the American landscape,” Pew Research Center’s director of data labs Aaron Smith told Axios. “Anywhere you find people, you are probably going to find a Mexican restaurant serving them food. In many ways, Mexican food is American food, and vice versa.”

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