Research Shows Lag in Hispanics’ Bachelor’s Attainment

Research Shows Lag in Hispanics’ Bachelor’s Attainment

WASHINGTON   —  While Hispanic Americans have made great strides in the last three decades as far as attaining high school diplomas, their attainment rate for bachelor’s degrees has inched up slowly, according to Census data released earlier this month.
People of Mexican descent, who comprise more than 65 percent of the country’s Hispanic population, are the least likely among Hispanics to be college-educated.
More than 7 percent of the nation’s 20 million Mexicans held bachelor’s degrees. Cubans were the Hispanic group most likely to be college-educated, with 25 percent of that population holding bachelor’s degrees or better. Nearly 10 percent of the total Hispanic population received a bachelor’s degree in 1990.
The findings come in the wake of a summit by the President’s Advisory Committee on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, which met here earlier this month to discuss higher-education issues facing the Latino population.
The panel urged that colleges must do more to reach out to Hispanic Americans and enroll more of them, because a better-educated Hispanic population will be crucial to the country’s economy.
The Hispanic population is expected to triple to 98 million by 2050. In a half-century, Hispanics could become the nation’s largest ethnic group, with their percentage of the total population rising from about 12 percent to 24 percent.
Members of the commission say they will propose changes in higher education to ease students’ movement from community colleges to universities. Commission members also say they would endorse financial aid programs for top-ranked high school students, and expressed disapproval of anti-affirmative action efforts.
With one quarter of the nation’s 31 million Hispanics living below the poverty line in 1998, the possibility for Hispanics — and especially recently arrived immigrants — to get better wages could get smaller. That’s because of increasing demand for college-educated workers, says Gumecindo Salas, vice president for governmental relations of the Hispanic Association for Colleges and Universities.
“The tradition among all immigrants in the U.S. is that after two or three generations, you tend to see a movement up in educational level,” Salas says. But with Hispanics, “because you have so many coming in over time, it tends to undermine that level of improvement. It may not appear to be improvement, but it actually is.”
The data are part of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey on Hispanics, the last population estimates before the 2000 Census.
Poverty level for a family of four in 1998 was considered to be $16,600. About 8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites lived in poverty in 1998.
Meanwhile, 27 percent of Puerto Rican families lived in poverty, compared with 24 percent of Mexican families and 11 percent of Cuban households.
“The country’s Latino population is not as homogeneous as some might think,” says census analyst Roberto Ramirez.               



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