US-Born Hispanics See Gains in Education, Income

Hope Yen, Comcast News, December 11, 2009

Young Hispanics born in the U.S. are less likely to drop out of school and live in poverty than young Hispanic immigrants, but they have higher exposure to gangs and violence, an independent research group says.

The study being released Friday by the Pew Hispanic Center paints a mixed picture of assimilation for a fast-growing group of U.S. citizens starting to wield their political rights: more education and job advancement, but also social problems.

The survey and analysis of census data found the high school dropout rate among all Hispanic youths ages 16-24 was 17 percent, roughly three times higher than white youths and close to double the rate for black youths. But when broken down by second-generation Hispanics born in the U.S., the dropout rate falls to 8.5 percent, roughly the same for youths of all races.

U.S.-born Hispanics also had improvements in economic well-being. About 29 percent of young immigrant Hispanics lived below the poverty line, more than twice the rate for young whites in a similar age range (13 percent) and slightly worse than young blacks (28 percent). But among second-generation Hispanics, that figure living below the poverty line improves to 19 percent.

On the other hand, the American-born youths were twice as likely as their immigrant counterparts to have ties to a gang or to have gotten into a fight or carried a weapon in the past year. About 40 percent reported they were either a gang member or knew a friend or relative who was, compared to 17 percent for those who were foreign-born.

The U.S.-born Hispanics also were more likely to be in prison and perceive instances of racial discrimination.

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In electoral terms, Latinos have had less clout at the polls than their numbers would suggest.

“Their share of the electorate has not grown nearly as much as their share of the population,” said Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “Now, with the coming of age of this big generation of U.S.-born children of immigrants, that’s all about to change.”

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Other findings:

* Young Hispanic immigrants are less likely to be unemployed than their U.S.-born counterparts, but they are largely confined to lower-skill occupations such as food preparation and serving, grounds cleaning and maintenance and construction.

* Second-generation Hispanic women are less likely than immigrants to give birth as a teen, but rates are still high: 16 percent for second-generation women ages 18 and 19, compared to 26 percent for immigrants. In all, 26 percent of Hispanic women were mothers by the time they reached age 19. That’s compared with 22 percent of blacks, 11 percent of whites and 6 percent of Asians.

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* Three percent of Hispanic men ages 16 to 25 were in prison in 2008, compared with 7 percent of young black men and 1 percent of young white men. U.S.-born Hispanic young men were more likely than their foreign-born counterparts to be incarcerated–3 percent vs. 2 percent.

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[Editor’s Note: “Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America,” from the Pew Hispanic Center, can be downloaded as a PDF file here.]

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