Education of Hispanic Youth: A Cultural Lag

Article excerpt


A great deal of attention has been paid recently to the issue of ethnic minorities, especially in relation to the ever-increasing populations and most especially in relation to their sociodemographic characteristics and educational attainment. The purpose of this paper is to survey the literature with respect to the causes of the educational lag in Hispanic youth. Chapa and Valencia (1993) further support the study of trends of the Latino population regarding educational issues. This paper is divided into two major sections: contributing factors, and strategies for improving educational levels in Hispanic youth. Also included is a section dealing with relevant definitions.


For purposes of definition, this paper focuses on the Hispanic minority group, although in recent years the term "Latino" has gained in popularity in preference to the term "Hispanic." Hispanic encompasses a group comprised of people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and other Hispanic origin. Table 1, taken from the U.S. Census Bureau, 1990, illustrates the distribution of the Hispanic population by subgroup.

Table 1. Distribution of the Hispanic Population by Subgroup, 1990

Group                   Population (in Millions)   Percentages

All Hispanic origins    22,354                     100.0
Mexican origin          13,496                      60.4
Puerto Rican            2,727                       12.2
Other Hispanic          5,086                       22.8
Cuban origin            1,043                        4.7

Further, Chapa and Valencia (1993) point out that the distribution of the Hispanic groups, as shown in Table 2, ". . . is concentrated in different regions of the country. Mexican-origin Latinos are the pre-dominant Hispanic group in the Southwest and Midwest. Puerto Ricans are concentrated in the Northeast. Cubans are concentrated in the Southeast. The other Latinos are found in areas with concentrations of Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban Latinos" (p. 169).

Table 2. Size and Growth of the Hispanic Population
by State, 1980-1990

        Percentage      Percentage      Cumulative

        1990 (in     1980 (in     Change    Hispanic    Percentage
State   Thousands)   Thousands)   1980-90   1990(a)     1990(a)

CA      7,687        4,544        69        34          34
TX      4,340        2,986        45        19          53
NY      2,214        1,659        33        10          63
FA      1,814          858        83         7          70
ILL       904          636        42         4          74
AZ        740          447        66         3          77
NJ        688          485        42         3          80
NM        579          482        20         3          83
CO        424          341        24         2          85

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (1991).

(a) Percentages are rounded to nearest whole.

Also, for purposes of definition, "educational lag" is intended to describe the slow increase in educational attainment of Hispanic youth as compared to non-Hispanic youth. Finally, "teacher educators" was coined by Cloud (1993) to encompass those faculty and/or instructors at institutions of higher learning who are involved in teacher training.

Contributing Factors

Several factors in the educational lag of Hispanics are examined: sociocultural variables of Hispanics; family status/composition; educational values/educational attainment; and school segregation.

Sociocultural variables. Hispanics are among the poorest of all minority groups in the United States. Some estimates report that over 25% of all Americans with Hispanic backgrounds are below the poverty line (Fields, 1988). Because the parents of many Hispanic students have very low educational levels, which in turn contribute to the low socioeconomic levels, it is difficult for them to advocate for their children's educational needs (Kavanaugh & Retish, 1991). …


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