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Fulfilling America’s Future: Latinas in the U.S., 2015

Authors: Patricia Gándara, The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Date Published: November 01, 2015

At 54 million, Hispanics now make up the largest ethnic minority in the country. Currently, Hispanic girls and women are one in five women in the U.S. and will comprise nearly one third of the country’s female population by 2060. Ensuring they are positioned for success is a fundamental responsibility and an important economic opportunity for the country.
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One in five women in the U.S. is a Latina. One in four female students in public schools across the nation is a Latina. Projections are that by 2060, Latinas will form nearly a third of the female population of the nation. Thus, the future of the nation is very much tied to the future of these women and girls.

Latinas are making progress, and in some cases, extraordinary progress. In the decade between 2003 and 2013, Latinas raised their high school graduation rate by more than 14 percentage points – an amazing leap. They have been steadily increasing in college degree attainment by about .5 percentage points each year, and over the last decade they have raised their representation between 30 and 40 percent in teaching, law, medicine, and management professions. Latina-owned businesses are also growing at a faster rate than businesses for all women and accounted for more than $71 billion in receipts in 2014. In spite of a myriad of barriers, Latinas have made significant progress over the last decade, yet they are not all faring as well as they must if they are to be able to realize their aspirations and make important contributions to the society and the economy.

As a group, Latinas begin school significantly behind other females and without adequate resources and supports, they are never able to catch up to their peers. Latinas graduate from high school at lower rates than any major subgroup; more than one in five has not completed high school by age 29. Latinas are also the least likely of all women to complete a college degree, at just 19 percent compared to nearly 44 percent of white women.

Many of the barriers that hold Latinas back are related to poverty. One-fourth of Latinas live below the poverty line and more than half are living in near-poverty. This sometimes makes high school graduation challenging due to competing work and family demands, makes higher education difficult to access, and student debt impossible to sustain. Low levels of education lead to lack of opportunity in the job market where Latinas make only 56 cents for every dollar earned by white males.

Latinas also have the least access to health care of any group of women. In 2011, 37 percent of Latinas were uninsured compared to just 14 percent of white women. The situation is even more severe for immigrant women. Lack of access to health care for oneself and one’s family leads to chronic conditions that steal time from both work and school, often meaning losing a job, or failing in school due to health-related absences.

Despite some progress, too many Latinas are being left behind. The Obama Administration has been actively involved in addressing many of the barriers these women and girls face, but much is left to be done if Latinas are to be able to make the important contributions they are capable of making to help the nation move forward.


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