The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country. Today, Hispanic students make up nearly one-quarter of all public school enrollments. By 2036, they are projected to make up one-third of the nation’s 3 to 17 year olds.
As the progression toward becoming a country that is “majority-minority” continues, Hispanic students will increasingly be a presence in K-12 and postsecondary classrooms. Their success also is inextricably tied to the economic health and prosperity of the nation.
Professors and business leaders convened at Northeastern University last Friday to discuss opportunities to diversify the field of business by enhancing Hispanic educational attainment. The summit was sponsored by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the PhD Project.
Hispanics already are making their mark as U.S. business owners. U.S. census numbers show that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses has increased by more than 46 percent between 2007 and 2012, to a total of more than 3.3 million businesses. In 2016, there will be a projected 4 million Hispanic-owned businesses.
Despite gains in that area, Latinos remain underrepresented in academe, particularly in terms of business Ph.D. attainment.
“One of the things that is critical to how we frame this discussion is we are not here talking about quotas, reparations and doing good,” said Dr. James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern University. “We’re here talking about national security, good business, serving customers [and] institutional viability, because this is really an example [that] no business, no educational institution can ignore the significant demographic trends that we’re seeing here that are now imperiling their own existence.”
At the summit, John Barros, chief of economic development for the city of Boston, shared some startling statistics from a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study on wealth inequality by race.
“The biggest threat for economic growth in our country is in the growing disparities in our economy,” Barros said.
The study, which was administered to 403 households in the Boston metro area, found that the median net worth of a White household was $247,500. For non-White households, the median net worth was much lower. The median net worth of a Caribbean Black household was $12,000, but for other demographic groups, such as Dominican or Black households, the median household net worth was close to zero.
Boston has some of the U.S. highest levels of income inequality, after Atlanta and San Francisco, according to the Brookings Institution. “Boston is booming, except the Hispanic population is not,” Barros said.
Improving educational opportunities for all people has obvious long-term economic benefits, but the Hispanic population faces a number of specific challenges toward college or graduate degree attainment.
Hispanic students are slightly more likely to attend a two-year college: 52 percent of Hispanic students attend a two-year school and 48 percent attend a four-year school.
“Latinos are less likely to enroll at a four-year institution first; they’re more likely to enroll at a two-year,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center, adding, “So you can see there are perhaps some challenges. Two-year institutions are not a bad thing, but perhaps there are some challenges if we want to get more people to finish a college degree.”
Their high school graduation rates show encouraging positive trends, according to Lopez.
“Hispanic young people are finishing high school at much higher rates than they used to,” Lopez said. “One other interesting thing — a greater share of Hispanic high school graduates today are deciding to go to college than ever.”
Hispanic students are also less likely to take the GMAT than White or Asian students, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Although Hispanics make up 14 percent of all high school grads, they comprise only 7 percent of GMAT test takers. By point of comparison, Asian students, who constitute 5 percent of all high school graduates, represent 12 percent of GMAT test takers.
Staff writer Catherine Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.