More Hispanic Immigrants Earn Degrees, But Education Gap Persists
Many more Hispanic immigrants are completing high school and earning college degrees, but the education gap with native-born Americans remains wide, a Latino research group reported last month.
Education levels also vary by the country from which a Latino immigrant came, according to the report by the Pew Hispanic Center. Those from Mexico and Central American countries such as El Salvador and Honduras were less likely to finish high school than new arrivals from South America and the Caribbean.
The gap with U.S.-born residents persists in part because many Hispanic families cannot afford rising college costs, experts said. In other families, kids may work and not attend school regularly, while undocumented students find it hard to get financial aid.
Meanwhile, disparities may exist between sub-groups simply because of how far one has to travel to the United States, said one of the report’s authors, Dr. B. Lindsay Lowell.
For instance, undocumented immigrants from Mexico tend to be less educated and don’t have to travel far to get to the United States. However, those from South America typically have to pay more money to travel to the country, so they would be more likely to be more educated, or at least come from families where the cost of travel — and an education — is not as much of a hindrance.
The center’s analysis of Census Bureau data between 1970 and 2000 found the share of Hispanic immigrants over 25 who graduated from high school increased from 28 percent to 59 percent, while for U.S.-born residents it grew from 53 percent to 87 percent.
Those immigrants who attended at least two years of college or earned a two-year degree doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent, while for U.S.-born citizens it increased from 17 percent to 35 percent.
Even with the disparities, “the education profile of the adult Latino immigrant population has improved significantly over the past 30 years,” says Roberto Suro, the Pew center’s director.
Jim Ferg-Cadima, a legislative analyst with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the report was overly optimistic. He said it did not account for factors that may limit Hispanic advances, including college costs or private financial aid sources, which tend to give more merit to applicants who are citizens.
For more information about the report, visit the Pew Hispanic Center’s Web site at
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