This National Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor our beautiful culture and heritage. Regardless of where our roots lie, we celebrate our diversity as we take stock of what the future looks like for our children.
As parents and family members, we know the road to a better future is in the hands of our children and youth. It’s a good thing we are known as much for hard work as for our commitment to family. It’s also a good thing we don’t give up easily because our work is cut out for us: While the high school dropout rate of Latinos has been cut in half, just 22% of young Latinos have college degrees.
We know our potential as a people is much greater than the challenges we face. So we must seize every opportunity to equip our youth with the apoyo (encouragement) to move forward. The future of our nation depends on it.
Economically, we play a key role in terms of where this country is going to be in the future competing globally.” — Alejandra Ceja, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH)
For a look at how things are shaping up for the future of Hispanic youth and ways you can help accelerate their progress, check out the following information:
Minority-Majority: A Household Term?
It’s no secret that, with 54 million Hispanics living in the U.S. in 2013, this demographic has long been on the fast track to become not only the largest minority population in the country, but the youngest. From our foods to our drinks and music, Hispanic culture continues to have a huge impact on life in the United States.
You know when Dora the Explorer is the No. 2 preschool show on commercial television and piñatas are the second most popular party favor, algo esta pasando (something’s going on).
But for nuestros hijos (our children), how does life in the U.S. stack up? What does the next generation face as they grow up with one foot in American culture and the other rooted in their heritage?
Here is a snapshot, illustrated by a number of key stats on the state of Hispanic children and youth in the U.S.
- Young children are on the leading edge of the demographic shift. Minorities this fall are expected to make up 51% of public school students in grades pre-K through 8th grade and 48% of those in grades 9 through 12. Young Latinos alone accounted for at least 20% of public school kindergartners in 17 states, up from just eight states in 2000.
- Of children and youth in the U.S. ages 5-19, 1 in 5 is from an immigrant family, with at least one foreign-born parent.
- Of children 0-8 years old in the U.S., 1 in 5 is Hispanic. Of those, nearly 70% are of Mexican American origin.
- El que dos lenguas habla, dos hombres vale. (He who speaks two languages is worth two people.) Second- and third-generation Hispanic children (79% and 38%, respectively) say they are proficient in Spanish, indicating that the mother tongue is resilient for several generations after immigration.
- Young Hispanics are often encouraged at home to speak Spanish as their parents speak of national pride in their country of origin. These youth typically self-identify by their country of origin rather than as “Americans.”
- Of native-born Hispanic youth, 98% say they speak English at least very well, while among foreign-born youth ages 16 to 25, just 48% make that claim.
- More than two-thirds (68%) of young Latinos are of Mexican origin, and they are growing up in families in which 42% say their mothers and fathers (44%) have less than a high school diploma. This compares with one-quarter of non-Mexican-heritage young Latinos who say the same.
- The high school dropout rate among Latino youths (17%) is nearly three times as high as that among white youths (6%) and nearly double the rate among blacks (9%).
- The reason most often given by Latino youths who cut off their education before college is financial pressure to support a family.
- Nearly all Latino youths (89%) and older adults (88%) agree that a college degree is important for getting ahead in life, even though just half of Latinos ages 18 to 25 say they plan to get a college degree.
- One-in-four young Hispanic females becomes a mother by age 19 — a rate that declined between 1990 and 2007 by 18%.
- Still, 69% of Latino youth believe that becoming a teen parent prevents a person from reaching one’s goals in life.
- Young Latinos find themselves living in poverty (23%) more than young whites (13%) and slightly less frequently than young blacks (28%).
Life Priorities and Satisfaction
- Even more so than other youths, young Latinos have high aspirations for career success. Some 89% say it is very important in their lives, compared with 80% of the full population of 18-to-25-year-olds who say the same.
- Latinos believe in the rewards of hard work. More than eight-in-ten—including 80% of Latino youths and 86% of Latinos ages 26 and older—say that most people can get ahead in life if they work hard.
- Latino youth are optimistic about their futures. More than 70% expect to be better off financially than their parents.
So there’s good news, and there’s bad news. Overall, the trend is going in the right direction, so we can’t stop now. Let’s focus on how to get our kids a great education that gives them solid footing for a successful future.
Here are a few tips for putting that apoyo in place:
- Team up with their teachers. That partnership is one of the strongest links you can build to your child’s academic success. Some resources are designed specifically to help you be a strong parent when it comes to your child’s education.
- Education is a lifetime investment. WHIEEH sees it through a cradle-to-career lens. In fact, they just released the Parent Toolkit app to help parents get more involved in their kids’ education.
- Be informed about early childhood programs. These are key to preparing our children to be more academically successful in their youth and through their college years. This brief video outlines how the White House is helping increase access to such programs.
- Walk the talk. “It’s our argument to make,” according to Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas). “We have to convince people that this isn’t about whose kids we’re educating. It’s about our society … because the more people we educate, the better off we’ll be as a nation.” Add to that:
- Trabaja duro en silencio y deja que tu éxito haga todo el ruido. (Quietly work hard and let your success do the talking.”)
While the challenges our children face may be less intense than we experienced, they remain very real. Fortunately, we can equip them by passing the baton fueled by what our forefathers and abuelitas gave us — ánimo.
“Between Two Worlds: Latinos Come of Age in America,” Pew Research, December 11, 2009; updated July 1, 2013.
“A View of the Future Through Kindergarten Demographics,” Pew Research Center FactTank: News in the Numbers, July 8, 2014.
“Para Nuestros Niños” Report, Eugene E. Garcia, Ph.D., National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics, 2011.
“American Latino Agenda Report,” New America Alliance Institute, 2014.
“Alejandra Ceja on Hispanic Students,” Comcast Newsmakers, March 24, 2014.