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Brown U. Survey of Latinos Debunks Myths


An analysis of political attitudes and civic engagement of Latinos in Rhode Island released Oct. 30 by Brown University debunks 10 common myths about them.

The report, titled Myths vs. Reality: Results From the New England Latino Survey,

focuses on Rhode Island, but the researchers highlight areas in which the findings differ from those in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Latino population in Rhode Island increased by 33 percent from 2000 to 2006.

Myths include “Latinos do not want to become Americans,” “Latinos are not politically active,” “Latinos drain money from the United States,” and “Latinos do not want to learn English.”

Among the findings:

  • The majority of Rhode Island Latinos plan to stay in the United States for the rest of their lives and seek to participate and blend fully into U.S. society;
  • The majority of Rhode Island Latinos are registered voters and participated in the last election;
  • Rhode Island Latinos stress both the importance of learning English, as well as maintaining Spanish in their own families and in the Latino community at large;
  • The prevalence of remittances — sending money to relatives and friends outside the United States — varies widely across groups in the survey. Among U.S.-born Latinos in Rhode Island, 60 percent have never sent remittances.

The report was authored by a research team led by Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. It included colleagues from Brown, Roger Williams University School of Law, the Rhode Island Latino Policy Institute and Providence College. The research was made possible by a $150,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation.

The grant allowed researchers to extend to New England the Latino National Survey, a study of political and social attitudes of more than 8,600 Latino residents of the United States. The research team surveyed an additional 1,200 Latino residents of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (citizens and non-citizens) using anonymous, bilingual telephone surveys in 2007-08.

The New England survey is far more extensive than some current national surveys, say the researchers.

“This data provides scholars, government leaders, and policy-makers with a much-needed baseline of data and understanding of this segment of the population,” said Hu-DeHart. “The information collected by this project will help overcome the current reliance on nationally based data that forces a standardization and homogenizing of Latino experiences, which is not reflective of reality.”

The group is also planning a national conference for fall 2009 that will bring together scholars and policy-makers to share and discuss this research.

The complete report is available online at

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