A year ago, I wrote about how the Great Recession hit Latinos hard. At the time, I was hopeful that the worst was behind us. Perhaps that was my natural Latino tendency to be optimistic.
After all, Latinos “are worse off, but they are still more positive about where the country is going” compared to most Americans. In particular, “Latino small-business owners are among the fastest growing and most upbeat [groups] in the nation,” and they “worry less about job security and are more positive and humble.”
Well, that sounds pretty great. There’s just one problem. All this hope, faith, and positive thinking seems to have had little effect in the real world.
Currently, the unemployment rate for Latinos is 11 percent, almost three points higher than the general population, and “Hispanics are still at a disadvantage when it comes to employment.” Latinos endured the largest drop in household wealth, and the largest increase in poverty, of any ethnicity in recent years.
So why are Latinos so optimistic in the face of these dire numbers? You guessed it — the infamous Latino work ethic has convinced many of us that prosperity, the American Dream, is ours if we just slave away harder.
An amazing 75 percent of Hispanics believe “that most people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard,” compared to just 55 percent of the general population. Conversely, a meager 21 percent of Latinos say, “hard work and determination are no guarantee of success,” compared to 40 percent of the overall population.
Again, faith in one’s own ability and a willingness to work hard are virtues. However, there is a difference between optimism and delusion.
If hard work were sufficient for becoming rich, a lot more Latinos would be lighting big cigars in their limos. But that is obviously not happening.
One reason is because ceaseless labor is not nearly as important for achieving financial success as education is. And in that regard, as Being Latino has pointed out, Latinos are way behind.
Also, because Latinos tend to be poorer in the first place, our kids don’t have the advantages that more affluent children receive, perpetuating a cycle that all the hard work in the world can’t overcome.
In fact, if you really want to rise up the socioeconomic ladder, you should have been born white and rich, because “a family’s race, economic background, and neighborhood play a role in economic mobility,” meaning that “if you’re born poor, you’re probably going to stay that way.”
Yes, we’ve heard how rich people are suffering too. But the joke is on us, because the wealthy know that “those born at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to stay there as adults.” And despite what you’ve been told, “the rags-to-riches story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality.”
In essence, Latinos tend to be more optimistic about achieving the American Dream, but that’s beginning to look more and more like believing in the tooth fairy.