Tenemos que platicar. We as a people have exhibited some sobering national trends; we need to brainstorm and organize. The manner in which we respond to these trends and the pressure we exert on elected officials for accountability will directly impact our collective socioeconomic status in the U.S. Failure to act could result in a long stay as the underclass of the nation. As a focal point, let us consider the newly released data collected by the Pew Hispanic Center. Latinos have the largest number of impoverished children, and, we have the dubious distinction of leading the nation in this sad statistic. Obviously, no one considers this a mark of success. Let us consider some of the contributing factors so that we can begin to frame a discussion about solutions.
We are a fecund people. Immigrants, often entering with limited marketable skills, have high numbers of births. The mismatch of a large number of children with scarce family resources seems inherently clear. Yet, the cultural and religious influences that inform immigrant parents’ decisions to have many children continue to plague the most economically disadvantaged segment of our community. Eighty-six percent of the 4.1 million impoverished Latino children of immigrants have been born here. Direct and explicit family planning guidance is lacking when it comes to this population. Social intervention to counteract the cultural tendencies for large families would be a crucial component, as would a realistic and rethought dogma by the christian religions to stress the importance of birth control.
We have a disturbing trend of having babies as teenagers. Approximately one year ago, Latina teens were three times more likely to have a baby than their Caucasian counterparts. Although the statistic does not guarantee that the Latina mother and her child will end up in poverty, it is nevertheless, a strong determinant. Households headed by women tend to be overrepresented in poverty statistics. It is worthwhile to consider what might be the effects of having schools take a more forceful leadership role in educating parents of Latino teens about the dangers of teenage pregnancies. Convincing parents to reinforce these ideas in the home is crucial to the success of any program designed to curb this trend. Honest discussion about all aspects of sexual activity must take place in order for the teen to be prepared to make the wisest decision. Parents should be counseled about the ineffective use of a “just don’t do it” strategy to keep their children in school and on the path to success.
The poor educational attainment of Latinos has been discussed. The lack of proper preparation for a world-wide economy has obvious implications for our financial insecurity. In this aspect in particular, we must become more demanding of our public officials. Let us organize ourselves to bring about these changes starting from our very own neighborhoods. Dale la mano a tu hermana/o, mi gente! Ideas and change begin with you.