Latino State News
41 Percent of Chicago Children are Latino
Latino Policy Forum analysis of Census data, the most detailed data available thus far for race and Hispanic/Latino origin groups, reveals that we’ve seen just the proverbial tip of the iceberg in terms of Latino population growth: In Illinois, nearly 1-in-4 children (23.1 percent) is Latino. And in Chicago, at 41 percent, Latinos represent the largest racial/ethnic group of children of any age. Given that many of these Latino children are under age 5, these new numbers have important implications for Illinois’ approach to early childhood education.
Nowhere is Latino diversity more evident—or economically important—than in local schools. According to ISBE 2010-2011 enrollment data, last year’s kindergarten, first, second, and third grade classes all had “minority-majorities,” with white student populations dipping below 50 percent for the first time, and Latino populations representing approximately 25 percent of all students.
Despite the growing number of Latino youth in Chicago and across the state, research indicates that Latinos are far less likely to be enrolled in preschool than their African American or White peers. But given the well-documented cognitive head start that preschool provides, it is not surprising that too many Latino children are already academically behind their peers by the time they start kindergarten. Academic gaps persist through school careers and culminate in dismal graduation rates.
Latinos were 25 percent of Chicago’s workforce and 14 percent of workers state-wide in 2009. By the time 2010’s preschool-age-children finish high school, those numbers will have grown exponentially. Our investment in preschool today will have a direct impact on our future economic competitiveness.