Report: Education Gaps Among U.S. Hispanics Stagnating Economic Progress

Report: Education Gaps Among U.S. Hispanics Stagnating Economic Progress

By David Pluviose

WASHINGTON

      A report released yesterday from the National Academies’ National Research Council finds that education and training are key to giving U.S. Hispanic workers and their children tools to participate in the nation’s prosperity. The report, titled “Multiple Origins, Uncertain Destinies: Hispanics and the American Future” is a thorough examination of Hispanic life in the United States, covering economic, health, education and other issues confronting Hispanic Americans.

      The report notes that Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States, and the population is growing quickly. Hispanics currently represent 14 percent of the U.S. population, a number that is expected to grow to 25 percent within 20 years. The population is also young — the median age is 27, versus 39 for non-Hispanic Whites.

      Many Hispanics, especially immigrants, remain at the bottom of the economic ladder in low-paying service jobs — mainly due to a lack of formal schooling and English proficiency, the report finds. Also, both native- and foreign-born Hispanics are less likely than their non-Hispanic counterparts to finish high school. Approximately 40 percent of the nation’s Hispanics attend impoverished inner-city high schools that graduate less than 60 percent of incoming freshmen.

      Though Hispanic college enrollment is on the upswing, those numbers also lag behind their White counterparts, the report finds. In 2000, Hispanics made up 11 percent of U.S. high school graduates but only 7 percent of four-year college students. However, Hispanics accounted for 14 percent of enrollees in two-year colleges, and are more likely to attend two-year colleges than Whites, the report says.

      This two-year college trend decreases the likelihood of a bachelor’s degree among Hispanics, further widening the Hispanic-White college gap despite increased Hispanic college enrollment overall, the report says. 

      “Access and cost, I think would explain a lot of it,” says Dr. Stephen Trejo, associate professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the National Research Council panel that produced the report.

      “Two-year colleges are close to being free in most places, and four-year colleges are a lot more expensive,” he says. “It’s location, too. Among Hispanic kids, there’s a tendency for cost reasons and maybe for family reasons to not want to move away for a college that’s far. Two-year colleges tend to be local, whereas four-year colleges aren’t always local.”

 This study on Hispanics in the United States was sponsored by numerous government and philanthropic agencies, including the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The National Academies’ Congressionally chartered mission is to advise the federal government on scientific and technology matters.

      The report will be available to the public later this spring from the National Academies Press <www.nap.edu>.



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