by Orlando J. Rodriguez
A study by the Pew Research Center on who moves, and who doesn’t, raises a potentially thorny issue for Latinos. Or maybe I’ve gone a bit too far in my interpretation of the findings on Latinos. The data is all about people, which means it is often contradictory and maybe best interpreted over one or more cervecitas. But there are a few tidbits that cannot be easily ignored.
Among those who move, job or business opportunities are their main motivation. Those who do not move cite family ties as their main reason for staying put. The Pew study also found that people with college educations are more likely to move than those who completed high school or less. This is to be expected because a college education provides more job opportunities and higher income than a high school education. It is not a coincidence that people who move also have higher incomes than people who stay.
As a group, Latinos–having lower educational attainment–move less than whites. Consider the following: for whites and blacks age 30+, 55 percent have lived their entire lives in the state in which they were born. However, among US-born Latinos, a whopping 72 percent have lived only in the state in which they were born. Among religious groups, Latino Catholics are the most likely to have lived in only one state–78 percent of them. Latinos are also twice as likely as whites or blacks to say that their home is where their family is from. Latinos and blacks are also more likely to return to their home community than whites.
An unscientific sample of my family confirms the Pew findings. The majority of my extended family is from New Orleans and remained there even after hurricane Katrina. Among them, the majority do not have a college education. My oldest brother, niece, and I are the only ones who left (long before Katrina), and we have graduate degrees. My other brother, who stayed in New Orleans and did not go to college, warned me not to get too much education or I would not be able to get a job. He must have been thinking of the type of local jobs available in the tourism and oil economy of southern Louisiana.
Latinos should be mindful that focusing exclusively on the importance of the family may create a difficult choice for young Latinos in the United States. Is the Latino family sending subtle, or not so subtle, hints that living close to abuelita is more important than a better job or higher education? Do young Latinos have enough acquaintances outside their families and beyond their local communities to feel comfortable among strangers? Are Latino parents sending a mixed message? “Get educated, but not too educated or you will move away and abuelita will never forgive you.” ¿Qué piensas?
To learn more about Orlando, visit his Bio Page.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.