Magazine article Conscience

Seeking Solutions: The Campaign for Reproductive Justice for Latinas in California

Magazine article Conscience

Seeking Solutions: The Campaign for Reproductive Justice for Latinas in California

Article excerpt

ACCORDING TO THE 2000 United States Census, Latinos, at almost 11 million, compose 32 percent of California's population. Among the Latino population, 51 percent are male and 49 percent are female. Latinas are relatively young, with a median age of 25.4. Indeed, 49 percent of Latinas are age 24 or younger. Latinas, of any race, compose 32 percent of all women in California, for a total of 5.4 million Latinas in the state.

The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that in 2025, almost half of all California's residents will be Latino, amounting to over 22 million Latinos in the state. The number of Latinas in California will double, to 10.8 million. Immigration will account for only 30 percent of this growth, with a majority of the growth due to U.S. births, many of which will produce second-generation Californians with at least one foreign-born parent.

SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS AND HEALTH OUTCOMES

Health experts consistently cite poverty and lack of access to health insurance as critical factors affecting Latinas' health and that of Latino youth. These issues are closely interconnected with Californian Latinas' socioeconomic status and educational attainment levels, and those of the Latino community as a whole.

For example, Latinas participate actively in California's labor force. According to the California Employment Development Department, of the 3.6 million Latinas over the age of 16, 52 percent are in the labor force. Of these nearly 2 million Latina workers, many are concentrated in lower-paying administrative support and service jobs, as well as those that present occupational and environmental hazards. A recent report found that while women have lower median earnings than men, women of color have lower median earnings than white women, and Latinas have the lowest median earnings.

Despite the large number of Latinas and Latinos who participate in the labor force, many struggle with poverty. According to the Census Bureau, a family of four that earns less than $18,307 lives in poverty. Almost one-quarter (2.4 million) of all Latinos in California are below that line. Eighteen percent of Latinas live in poverty, compared with 8.3 percent of white women.

Related to socioeconomic status and earnings, educational attainment also has been found to play a critical role in women's health outcomes. For example, a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation addressing disparities in maternal and infant health in California found that women who have not finished high school are three times as likely as women who have completed college to lack prenatal care during the first three months of pregnancy. In California, Latinas' high school completion rate is 53.5 percent, compared with 93-7 percent for white women and 81.1 percent for females overall. As such, equal access to educational

opportunities, including higher education, for Latina girls and young women is important to achieve positive health outcomes.

It is clear that Latinas' health--and reproductive health in particular--cannot be viewed in isolation. For example, Latinas' economic security; access to equal educational opportunities; and freedom from discrimination, violence and environmental hazards in their communities, educational institutions and workplaces have a profound effect on Latinas' abilities to make informed choices about their health and future lives.

HEALTH DISPARITIES

An important element of reproductive health for Latinas is access to health services. Having access to basic health services and health insurance plays a significant role in women's reproductive health. This is especially critical for Latinas, who disproportionately lack access to health insurance in California.

Latinas continue to lack access to basic health services. According to the 2005 California Health Interview Survey, Latinas have the greatest likelihood of being uninsured among all groups of women in California. …

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