Hispanic children are tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers. Investing in their education and well-being is investing in America’s future. The Census’s most recent data, however, reveal that of all racial and ethnic groups, Latinos experienced the largest one-year increase in poverty in 2009. The number of Hispanic families with children in poverty has been exacerbated by the current recession and disproportionately high unemployment among Latino workers who are concentrated in the hard-hit industries, such as construction.
Poverty in the Latino community has been a significant issue for many decades. But recently released Census data reveal that in 2009 poverty was at its highest level for Latino children since 1997. Job creation is one of the most important strategies to reverse these statistics but America’s system of work supports also has a role to play in lifting America’s children out of deep poverty.
At the same time, this safety net has shown weakness in reaching Hispanic families and children facing tough economic times. A number of factors contribute to this: high concentrations of Latino adults in low-wage jobs without benefits; barriers to access and eligibility for immigrant workers; and cultural and linguistic differences. As a result, Latino children and families are less likely to have the supports they need to help them through economic difficulties. The safety net’s ability to reach all families and children, therefore, should be strengthened.
This brief will provide background on Latino child poverty, including important demographic information that underscores how Latino poverty is similar to and different from poverty experienced by other groups. It will then discuss stateby- state differences in the data, and policy solutions to reduce poverty and close racial and ethnic disparities.
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