Hispanic Children in Poverty Exceed Whites

According to a recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center, “More Latino children are living in poverty–6.1 million in 2010–than children of any other racial or ethnic group. This marks the first time in U.S. history that the single largest group of poor children is not white. In 2010, 37.3% of poor children were Latino, 30.5% were white and 26.6% were black.”

Prior to 2007, more white children lived in poverty than Hispanic children. But the Great Recession hit the Hispanic population particularly hard. Poverty rates between 2007 and 2010 increased by 36.3% for Hispanic children. Comparable rates during this time period for whites and blacks increased by 17.6% and 11.7%, respectively.

Of the 6.1 million Latino children living in poverty, more than two-thirds (4.1 million) are the children of immigrant parents. And, as noted in the Future of Children’s Immigrant Children volume and policy brief, a substantial percentage of these children are falling behind in school. More than 5 million, for example, struggle with their academic subjects because they are still learning English.

Evidence shows that three policy reforms -increased attendance in quality preschool, improved instruction in English, and increased attendance in postsecondary education -would improve the school achievement of Hispanic youth, lift their economic wellbeing as adults, and increase their economic and social contributions to American society.

Latin American immigrants arrive in the United States with a strong work ethic and strong family values. By the second generation, their work rates decline, their wage progress appears to slow, and both their nonmarital birth rates and their divorce rates rise. Finding ways to boost achievement and help more Latinos complete high school and attend and complete college or other postsecondary training should be high on the nation’s list of priorities.

As Pew Center Associate Director Mark Hugo Lopez commented in the New York Times “Who [Hispanic children] become will be important for the future of the nation.”

For more specific information about the Future of Children’s recommendations for children of immigrant families, see our Immigrant Children volume.