By Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President, Programs, NCLR
Latinos are well aware of discrimination and inequality yet we are optimistic about the future, a new poll shows. The State of the Latino Family Survey of 1,000 Latinos, ranging from new immigrants to long-time citizens and conducted by Univision, The Denver Post, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, shows that the Latino community is particularly hopeful about their economic prospects, their personal health, and the quality of public education.
What is striking about the survey is that the pollsters chose to include undocumented immigrants living in the United States, providing a fuller picture of the Latino community’s stance on a variety of issues. Nonetheless, while optimism is apparent throughout the survey, differences exist among demographic groups, highlighting the complexity of the Latino community. Some findings show that Latinos who are newer to the United States have a much more positive outlook than those who have lived in the country longer. This latter group was more prone to “express disappointment with persistent inequality and diminishing opportunities.”
The poll focused on the following areas: social progress, economics, education, health, and the Latino experience.
Latinos have seen progress in health care access, equal opportunity, and education. The optimism for these particular issues, however, is somewhat guarded, especially considering that those surveyed believe there is an uptick in violence and crime, affordable housing is scarce, and discrimination against Latinos and immigrants has not diminished. The difference in attitudes is most stark when generational and socioeconomic differences are considered. For example, 56 percent of fourth-generation Latinos believe that things are getting worse on the job front compared to 40 percent of new U.S. citizens.
When asked about the economy and personal finances, an overwhelming 73 percent of respondents said they were optimistic about the future. Just 10 percent of those surveyed said they were not optimistic at all. The survey also showed that undocumented immigrants and the highest-income earners had the most positive outlook. Unfortunately, there is still progress to be made in ensuring that Latinas feel secure about the economy. A full 54 percent said they had no savings to draw from were they to fall on hard times, and just 61 percent said they could take on another job or more hours, compared to 73 percent of men who said the same.
Education is always one of the highest priorities for Latino parents, and respondents are confident about the instruction their children receive. According to the poll, 77 percent of Latinos with children said they believe that their schools are providing a quality education. An impressive 60 percent of Latino parents said they are actively engaged in their children’s education, whether it be attending parent-teacher conferences or volunteering at the school. Attendance at functions such as school board hearings, however, was weaker; the time commitment necessary for such events was often cited as a barrier, as were language and citizenship differences.
The survey revealed that Latinos are also positive about their health outlook. In fact, 63 percent said they were in “good, very good, or excellent health.” Compare this to the 12 percent who rated their health as “poor.” Interestingly, while 75 percent said they have some kind of health insurance, 40 percent reported that they usually seek medical care outside of a doctor’s office. Twenty-five percent said they go to clinics or community health centers, while 16 percent said they go to hospitals or urgent care centers for medical attention.
The Latino Experience
Finally, on the Latino experience overall, the community is undeniably concerned about being the targets of discrimination in American society. Almost 70 percent said they are concerned about excessive force being doled out against them. Interestingly, more than 20 percent said they felt that Latinos are discriminated the most in Arizona, surely a result of the state’s notorious anti-immigrant atmosphere embodied by laws such as SB 1070.
This is an important poll, to be sure, though we should keep in mind that while Latinos remain optimistic about their future, there is still much work to be done politically, legislatively, and programmatically to guarantee better opportunities. Harnessing the optimism of our diverse and complex community will help us break down the barriers to education and the workplace, helping more Latinos enjoy full participation in American life.