Study Describes Difficulties of Latino Kids in U.S.

WASHINGTON – Latino children face obstacles in education and health that make their success as adults and their integration into society more difficult, the National Council of La Raza says in a study released Wednesday.

Latinos make up 22 percent of the country’s total population under age 18, a percentage that is predicted to grow in the coming years.

The examination of the basic statistics of that group reveals an “alarming” situation that must be corrected, says the report, which was put together by the NCLR’s Patricia Foxen and Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau.

The first obstacle facing the 16 million young Hispanics is poverty. Almost 60 percent of them live in low-income homes, more than double the percentage of white children who live in those circumstances.

In addition, it’s more probable that Latino kids live with just one parent.

In education, the statistics follow the same trend. Latino kids’ participation in early education programs is low and by the time they reach the eighth grade, more than 40 percent are not reading at grade level.

Just 55 percent graduate from high school within the normal time period. Those who fall by the wayside tend to resign themselves for the rest of their lives to working at jobs that have lower pay, the statistics reveal.

Yet, the study presents at least one positive figure: the education of Latino mothers, which according to other studies raises the well-being of their children, has increased drastically in the last decade.

The report also discusses data on health and provides another worrying figure: one in every five Latino children, especially the children of immigrants, lacks health insurance.

More than 40 percent of Hispanic kids are obese, which places them at risk for diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease, and Latino teenagers also have higher pregnancy rates than certain other groups.

In the face of these difficulties, many lose their way and end up in jail. One in every six Latino men will go to prison at some point in their lives, a figure that is higher than among whites but lower than the one in three black men who will serve time behind bars.

Although 92 percent of Latino youths are U.S. citizens, the majority have at least one immigrant parent, which can make their access to education and health care services more difficult, the study says.

In addition, “many children of both legally resident and undocumented parents live with the continuous fear of their parents’ possible incarceration or deportation,” the report notes.

Given these data, the authors conclude that “Latino children, who represent a vital part of our country’s future, are in need of significant help.”

If nothing is done, the difficulties Latino children face “may hinder the broader integration of Latinos into U.S. society,” the NCLR said.

Mather and Foxen called for investment in programs that give Latino youngsters more opportunities to be successful in life and that help them to leave behind the statistics that are working against them. EFE

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