Young Latinos seem to face a tougher future

Latinos believe education and hard work are key to a successful future, but they are more likely than other young people to drop out of school and live in poverty, according to a new Pew Hispanic Center study being released today.

The study, based on a survey of more than 1,200 Latinos ages 16 to 25 and an analysis of census data, presents a portrait of the assimilation of a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population, one that will have a significant effect on the nation’s politics and economics in coming years. Young Latinos make up 18% of all young people in the nation and 42% in California.

About one-third of young Latinos are immigrants, but two-thirds are born in the U.S. Many are the children of immigrants who began arriving in the U.S. in 1965.


“If you want to understand what America is going to be like in the 21st century, you need to have understanding of how today’s young Latinos, most of whom are not immigrants, will grow up,” said Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “Never before in this nation’s history has a minority ethnic group made up so large a share of the youngest Americans.”

That could raise concerns in some areas. About one-quarter of all young Latinas have a child by age 19, a rate higher than whites, Asians and blacks. About 17% of Latinos drop out of school -- nearly double the rate among blacks. And about 23% of young Latinos live in poverty -- higher than whites but lower than blacks.

But over time, Latinos gain more education -- those born in the U.S. are less likely to leave high school than those in the first generation, according to the study. The U.S.-born are also less likely than foreign-born young Latinos to be employed in construction, food preparation or other low-skilled jobs. They are also more proficient in English and less likely to live in poverty.

However, those born in the U.S. are more likely to have gang ties or be incarcerated, according to the study.

The findings also raise questions about identity. More than half of the young people identify themselves first by their family’s native country. Among those born in the U.S., 33% say they are American first, and 41% identify themselves by their parents’ homeland.

“They are growing up in households where the immigrant experience is a very recent experience,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center.