Will a surge in the Latino population decrease the income and education gap?

Yolanda Garcia’s grandparents migrated from Mexico and worked multiple jobs — in farm fields and school cafeterias — to save money to send all six children to college.

( source: op-ed from LA TIMES)

Garcia’s father attended Brown University and had five children. In turn, she graduated from UC Santa Cruz, worked as a teacher and now runs a gallery and boutique store in Whittier selling Latin American folklore art and other items.

Along the way, the family moved up the ladder, from South Los Angeles to the upscale Friendly Hills neighborhood of Whittier. They were the first Latinos in their immediate area. Now, there are four other Latino families there.

The Garcias’ story represents a common California immigrant dream. But it’s far from the reality for all Latinos, who the U.S. Census Bureau now says have surpassed non-Latino whites to become California’s largest ethnic group.

The milestone is a reminder of the huge strides Latinos have made, but also of the challenges they still face.

Overall, Latinos have lower incomes, education and job skills than the average white Californian.

The Latino plurality is just a preview of the demographic shifts ahead. Latinos make up half of all Californians younger than 18, numbering 4.7 million compared with 2.4 million whites, according to census data.

This younger generation has a chance to close many of these gaps, with many achieving more than their parents.

A study published last year found that second-generation Mexican Americans in California and Texas had achieved more education, higher earnings, less poverty, more white-collar jobs and greater rates of home ownership than their immigrant parents. Only about 21% of Mexican parents had completed high school, for instance, compared with 80% of their children by 2005.

 

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