Latino Youth Survey: Satisfied with Lives in US, but Lagging Peers

Article excerpt

Most Latino youths in the US are 'mostly' or 'very' satisfied with their lives, reports a new survey by Pew Hispanic Center. But teen pregnancy rates are high, and Latinos trail their counterparts on other important measures, such as education and skill levels.

As the US braces for another attempt at immigration reform next year,

the demographic reality that 1 in 4 newborns today is Hispanic and

that Hispanic youths remain less skilled and more prone to dropping

out of high school than their nonLatino peers will no doubt influence

the debate - and be cited by those on both sides of the issue.

Some analysts say the birthrate numbers - a percentage achieved by

no other minority group in American history - point inexorably

toward rising influence of Hispanics in political and cultural life.

"Latinos will dramatically increase their importance in elections,

which is not a political or organizational analysis so much as a

demographic fact," said Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Hispanic

Center, which released a national survey of Latino youths on Friday.

This year marks the first time that a plurality (37 percent) of

Latinos in the 16 to 25 age group are US-born children of immigrant

parents, according to the report, "Between Two Worlds: How Latino

Youths Come of Age in America." An additional 29 percent are

third-generation Hispanic-Americans or higher. Thirty-four percent

are themselves immigrants; 14 years ago, nearly half of all Latinos

in this age group were immigrants.

Those figures should serve as a wake-up call to the business world,

some argue.

"Marketing professionals around the country will be shocked to see

the amount of Hispanic youth in New Mexico, California, Texas,

Nevada, Florida, and Colorado," says Jennifer Elena, vice president

of Crosby-Volmer International Communications, a nationwide public

relations company. "Corporate America should recognize the

significance of capturing this audience."

Noting that 51 percent of all youths living in New Mexico are

Hispanic, she asks: "Is corporate America spending 50 percent of

their [youth-marketing] dollars on tailoring messages to the youth of

New Mexico?"

The report examined attitudes of youths ages 16 to 25 toward

identity, teen parenthood, family, children, life priorities,

educational and career aspirations, and gangs. It shows that

Hispanics are more likely than other youths to drop out of school,

live in poverty, and become teen parents, despite a high value on

education, hard work, and career success.

One finding - that young Hispanic women have the highest rates of

teen parenthood of any major racial or ethnic group - indicates

that pregnancy-prevention campaigns have not resonated among Hispanic

youths, says Ms. Elena. "What is Trojan doing to educate Latino

men? Awareness campaigns are more than billboards and PSAs. Until

awareness campaigns are developed to understand that Hispanics are

dealing with specific economic, religious, and language barriers,

then nothing will change," she says.

Of major interest to the report's authors and analysts are findings

about the terms younger Hispanics use to describe themselves, and

thus what countries they most identify with. Fifty two percent say

they prefer using their family's country of origin (e.g.,

Mexican-American or Guatamalan-American) over the term American (24

percent) or the terms Hispanic or Latino.

"When youth are going through the life cycle of identity, of

figuring out who they are, they are going to try to find something

that is meaningful to them, and this often comes from what their

parents have passed along to them," says Jesus Huerta, national

project coordinator for Catholic Relief Services, who deals firsthand

with Hispanics in outreach programs. …