Latinos make up 27.6 percent of New York City’s population and are the largest share of the population under age 25, according to a policy brief released last month. That means that Latino youth, from a sheer numbers standpoint, will potentially have an enormous impact on the future of New York City in terms of its leadership, business, workforce, culture, and philanthropy. Unfortunately, the policy brief also shows that Latinos have the lowest school enrollment rates and educational attainment of any racial or ethnic group in New York City. The report’s most salient findings should signal to Latinos how much more work lies ahead to close the education gap:
- Nearly one in five (19.6%) Latino youth are neither in school, nor working. This is similar to black youth (20.5%) but compares very poorly with whites (8.9%) and Asians (9%).
- School enrollment rates among Latino immigrant youth (35%) are far below any other immigrant group, and well below that of native-born Latino youth (62%).
- Latinos born here have the highest percentage of individuals without a high school or equivalent diploma at 34 percent, more than black young people (29%), and far exceeding the rates of whites (10%) and Asians (7%).
- Latino youth, even the native-born population, are the lowest-educated group of young people in New York City, with just 28 percent having obtained education past a high school diploma.
- Only 55 percent of native-born Puerto Ricans attend school in New York City, significantly below the rates for any other native-born Latino youth nationalities, and lower than black youth, the ethnic group with the lowest school enrollment (61%).
There were a few bright spots in the brief. In particular, young Dominican women show the highest rate of school enrollment among Latino groups (64.6%). The outlier trends among Dominican females and Puerto Rican males are also reminders that Latinos are far from a monolithic group. Rather than treating them as such, researchers and policymakers should take into account the diversity among different groups of Latinos.
Overall, what does this for mean our young Latinos and their role in one of the world’s greatest cities? While our presence is strong, we need to take greater responsibility for the education of our Latino youth. We know that educational attainment is strongly associated with more job opportunities and higher incomes, but it is also linked with non-economic outcomes, such as improved health, family stability, and civic participation (Cutler & Lleras-Muney, 2006). Latinos need better supports in their academic careers, especially in the transition from high school to college if we want them to effectively participate in shaping this city’s future.
Latinos will outnumber other groups, potentially opening up greater Latino representation in business and politics. And I expect it won’t be long before we see New York City’s first Latino Mayor. But without addressing key disparities (especially among immigrant groups), many of these young Latinos will become New York City’s disenfranchised adults. This would be a detriment not just for Latinos, but for the city as whole.
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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.