Analizando los datos del Censo: buenas noticias para los latinos, pero no lo suficiente para cerrar las brechas

Yuqi Wang, analista de política económica del Proyecto de Política Económica de NCLR

En 2015, los latinos tuvieron mayores ingresos, menos probabilidades de vivir en la pobreza y más probabilidades de tener una cobertura de salud que en 2014. Estas buenas noticias se obtuvieron de los datos de la medición de ingresos y pobreza de 2015 que recién se dieron a conocer. A continuación se exponen algunos puntos positivos de los datos de la Oficina del Censo de los Estados Unidos:

  • El ingreso de una familia latina promedio creció de $42,491 en 2014 a $45,148 en 2015. Las familias latinas no habían tenido tanto dinero en sus bolsillos desde el año 2000 cuando el ingreso medio familiar llegó a los $45,649. Esta subida del 6.1 % del año pasado superó el crecimiento del 5.2 % del ingreso familiar promedio a nivel nacional.
  • Un millón menos de latinos vivieron en la pobreza en 2015. El porcentaje de latinos que vivió en la pobreza cayó un 2.2 % entre 2014 y 2015, mientras que el índice de pobreza a nivel nacional disminuyó un 1.2 % en el mismo periodo.
  • Los latinos registraron el mayor aumento de seguro médico. La tasa de cobertura de seguro médico aumentó un 3.6 % en 2015, la mayor subida de cualquier grupo étnico o racial.

povertyNCLR destacó estos y otros logros positivos de millones de latinos en 2015 en una hoja informativa (disponible en inglés) que resume los nuevos datos de la Oficina del Censo.

Estas tendencias son la prueba de la perseverancia de la comunidad latina después de años de crecimiento lento.

“Este progreso es la demostración de que el trabajo duro de la comunidad latina, junto con las políticas sensatas que promueven la prosperidad de esta comunidad a largo plazo, están funcionando”, dijo Eric Rodríguez, vicepresidente de la Oficina de Investigación, Defensa y Legislación de NCLR.

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Breaking Down the Census Data: Good News for Latinos But Not Enough to Close Gaps

By Yuqi Wang, Economic Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Demonstrators joined our Affiliate, Latin American Coalition, in North Carolina last week for a DAPA Day of Action, part of rallies that happened all across the country.

In 2015, Latinos were earning more, less likely to live in poverty, and more likely to have health insurance coverage than they did in 2014. This good news came from the recently released 2015 income and poverty data. A few bright spots in the data from the U.S. Census Bureau include:

  • The income of a typical Latino household income grew from $42,491 in 2014 to $45,148 in 2015. Latino households have not had this much money in their pockets since 2000 when median household income reached $45,649. This 6.1% jump from last year outpaced the 5.2% growth of the typical national household income
  • There were one million fewer Latinos living in poverty in 2015. The percentage of Latinos living in poverty fell by 2.2% between 2014 and 2015 while the national poverty rate decreased by 1.2% during the same time. 
  • Latinos saw the highest increase of health coverage. Health coverage grew by 3.6% in 2015, the most growth out of any racial or ethnic group.

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Weekly Washington Outlook — June 6, 2016

US Supreme Court 1935 Washington, DC, USA

US Supreme Court 1935 Washington, DC, USA

What to Watch This Week:

 Congress:

House:

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House will consider a series of non-controversial bills under suspension of the rules.  A full list is available here.

On Thursday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • R. 5325– Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2017 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Graves / Appropriations Committee)
  • R. 5278– Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule)(Sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy / Natural Resources Committee)
  • Con.Res. 89– Expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy. (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise / Ways and Means Committee)
  • Con.Res. 112– Expressing the sense of Congress opposing the President’s proposed $10 tax on every barrel of oil. (Subject to a Rule)(Sponsored by Rep. Charles Boustany / Ways and Means Committee)

Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will consider S.2943, the National Defense Authorization Act.

White House:

On Monday, the president will welcome the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos to the White House to honor the team and their Super Bowl 50 victory.

On Tuesday, President Obama will meet with Prime Minister Modi of India at the White House. The visit will highlight the deepening of the U.S.-India relationship in key areas since the President’s visit to New Delhi in January 2015

On Wednesday, the president will travel to New York to attend a DSCC event and a DNC event.

On Thursday, President Obama will host a reception at the White House in recognition of LGBT Pride Month.

On Friday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

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¡Adelante, ACA!

by Danny Turkel, Digital Coordinator, National Council of La Raza

According to a new Census Bureau report, nine million fewer people in the United States were uninsured in 2014 than the previous year. And we’re seeing signs of progress that the law is working for Latinos. While one in three Latinos lacked health insurance in 2010; as of this year, that rate has dropped to one in five, a record low.

Despite these gains, Hispanics continue to have the highest uninsured rate at around 20%. With the third open enrollment period just a few weeks away (November 1), NCLR is gearing up to ensure people who are eligible don’t miss out on the opportunity for quality, affordable, and accessible coverage.

Providing health insurance to so many Hispanics helps to alleviate the pressures of navigating such a predatory health care landscape, especially for a population earning less than the average American worker. Latinos are still twice as likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic White Americans. Likewise, the median income for non-Hispanic Whites stands at $60,256, while Hispanics are taking home about $42,491. That disparity is compounded when combined with the fact that 19 states still refuse to expand their Medicaid programs. Because Medicaid is ultimately a program used to provide health care to low-income earners, that refusal disproportionately affects Latinos and other minority populations.

If every state agreed to expand, approximately 3.7 million Latinos could receive low-cost or free health care. The economic and public health incentives of doing so are clear. Furthermore, two states that have yet to expand Medicaid, Texas and Florida, rank second and third respectively in the size of their Hispanic populations. The failure of Texas and Florida to provide low-cost health care to their residents illustrates the disproportionate suffering felt by Latinos and the inconsistencies of coverage opportunities across state lines.

In spite of the political circus surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the law has ultimately provided relief for millions of previously uninsured Americans, many of whom are Latino. The Affordable Care Act was put in place to allow all Americans to receive at least some form of health insurance and it has been mostly successful in achieving that goal. However, due to political sabotage and intransigence, many of the most vulnerable are still not able to get the care they need. This is especially true for Hispanics and other minorities. The Census Bureau study demonstrates the success of the ACA if it is allowed to function properly. The ACA is something our community needs and wants and NCLR will continue to work to protect the gains that have been made and further increase the number of Americans benefitting from affordable health insurance.

Congress Must Do More to Help Working Families

By Amelia Collins, Associate Policy Analyst, NCLR

According to new data from the U.S. Census Current Population Survey (CPS), income levels and poverty rates for most Americans are unchanged from last year and vast disparities persist between Hispanics and Whites. The Census released the latest data on income and poverty in the United States late last week and includes the CPS, the source for the national official poverty measure. The second set of data released, the American Community Survey (ACS), offers an economic picture at the state and local levels.

Overall, 14.8% of Americans live in poverty. For Whites, the poverty rate in 2014 was 10.1%, less than half the rate of 23.6% for Hispanics.

The median income in 2014 for Hispanics remains below prerecession levels at $42,491. The median income for Whites in 2014 was 42% higher at $60,256.

Although, according to the CPS, there has been no significant change in the overall poverty rate for Latinos over the past year, the number of Hispanics living in poverty has decreased, even with an uptick in the overall Latino population. According to the ACS, in 2014, 252,000 fewer Hispanics, including about 160,000 Latino kids, lived in poverty. This decrease comes even as the total Latino population grew by 1.3 million, including 97,000 children, from 2013 to 2014.

While academics can debate the best source to determine poverty rates, there is no questioning what Congress should do in response to these new numbers: they must pass legislation to help hardworking American families stay out of poverty.

Improving jobs and the economy remain a top priority for the Latino community. A 2014 poll by Latino Decisions and NCLR found that a majority of Latinos continue to worry about their financial security, with 70% concerned they are not earning enough to cover their basic expenses. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to take action on policies that would help millions of Americans stay above the poverty line. Two policies Congress should advance this year to respond to Latino voters’ economic priorities are:

  • Save expiring provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC and the CTC are refundable tax credits for American families. Improvements to these pro-work programs made in 2009 are set to expire in 2017. If Congress does not act to make those critical expansions permanent, five million Latino families stand to lose an average of $1,000 each. In total, 16 million Americans will be pushed into or deeper into poverty.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 an hour. Doing so would increase the income for millions of working families, including 5 million Latino workers, who are concentrated in low-wage jobs. Persistent wage stagnation has left many families without the means necessary to cover necessary expenses. According to U.S. Census data, over 1.2 million Hispanics who worked full-time year-round lived below the poverty line. These hardworking families deserve to earn a living wage.

As the Latino population continues to grow and their share of the electorate increases, politicians must pay increasing attention to the economic well-being and the priorities of the Latino community. It starts with action for working families.

Turning Our Backs on Pro-Work, Anti-Poverty Policies? Not on Our Watch.

FMLA_LatinoFamily_2015

With Tax Day come and gone, millions of working American families are reassessing their budget priorities and thinking about how to cut expenses. Fortunately, an improving economy holds promise for some. However, for millions of hardworking taxpayers, the improving economy has still not reached their pocketbooks. In fact, more than 40 percent of Latinos earn poverty-level wages despite their hard work and immense contributions to the U.S. economy.

Given this outlook, it’s a wonder that any elected officials would turn their backs on successful tax policies that have lifted millions of working families out of poverty. The refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) have long received bipartisan praise and have been heralded as a resounding success. President Ford created the EITC and President Reagan expanded it, calling it “the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure ever to come out of Congress.” President Clinton created the CTC and President George W. Bush increased it.

Together, these two tax credits have a positive track record worthy of boasting from both parties. The EITC and CTC both promote employment, as only people who work are eligible. There is evidence that the EITC was a major impetus in reducing single mothers’ unemployment in the 1990s. The EITC and CTC are also refundable, meaning that very low-income families can still earn a partial credit. After Congress expanded the CTC in 2009 to reach families making as little as $3,000 a year, 1.1 million people were lifted above the poverty line in 2013. Because of enhancements to the EITC that same year, 600,000 were put out of poverty in 2013. Plus, numerous studies have drawn links between the CTC and higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and higher college attendance.

taxday_sharegraphics1Yet, some members of Congress want to let vital enhancements to these credits expire at the end of 2017. If that happens, more than 16 million American workers with eight million children would fall into or even further into poverty. Latinos stand to lose the most from the expiration of these enhancements. Some four million Latino working families with nine million children could each lose an average of more than $900 a year. While $900 may not sound like much, to the average Latino working family, that can mean the difference between paying rent and not. 

Congress still has an opportunity to recognize the success of the refundable CTC and EITC and to come together to renew its promise to ensure that with hard work, families can stay out of poverty and sow the seeds for lifelong success. Given the stakes for the Latino community, policymakers can be sure that we will be holding them accountable for doing what’s right for working families.

Measuring Latino Poverty

By Daniel Salgado, NCLR Legal Fellow

PovertyBlog2015_MotherSon-(2)

Photo: Ernesto Cruz

We are hearing a lot of good news about the economy these days. In 2014, the U.S. economy recorded the largest job growth since 1999, while gas prices declined for a record four consecutive months. The Latino poverty rate is also steadily declining. In fact, Latinos are the only racial or ethnic group to show a significant drop in poverty rates over the past few years— from 25.6 percent in 2012 to 23.5 percent in 2013.

This decrease in poverty could be a sign that the economic recovery is finally reaching Latino communities, though it should be noted that the poverty rate for Latinos remains above its pre-recession level of 20.6 percent. In order to accurately track how far Latinos have to go to make up for the damage of the Great Recession, it is important to take a closer look at how poverty is measured. That requires examining the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which provides a more comprehensive measure of poverty taking into account the effects that government programs and tax credits, for example, have on a family’s income. Unfortunately, the SPM shows that the Latino poverty rate has actually remained relatively stagnant at 26 percent, significantly higher than the rates of poverty in White and Black communities.

Two Ways of Measuring Poverty

The Official Poverty Measure (OPM), which is the source used for determining eligibility for federal government programs, is calculated by comparing cash income before taxes to the poverty line, which was $23,834 for a family of four in 2013. Since the Census Bureau began tracking the OPM, the Latino rate has been the second-highest in the United States, only slightly lower than the Black poverty rate (see Figure 1).

PovertyBlog2015_figure1

Figure 1. The OPM Rates by Race/Ethnicity since 2000. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “Historical Poverty Tables.” Current Population Survey. Washington DC, 2014,http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/historical/people.html (accessed January 2015), Table 2.

However, in recent years, the Census Bureau acknowledged that the OPM does not paint a complete picture of poverty. By counting only cash income before taxes such as salary, workers compensation, Social Security, and public assistance, the OPM fails to consider noncash government programs such as nutrition assistance and housing subsidies. Also, the OPM overlooks the impact of refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

That’s where the SPM comes in. The SPM calculation includes noncash government benefits and tax credits. It also considers tax payments and work expenses (see Figure 2). As a result, the SPM provides a better understanding of the impact of government programs on reducing poverty. Using the SPM, the census finds that Latinos actually have the highest poverty rate, 26 percent (see Figure 3). This has been the case ever since the census first started measuring the SPM in 2011.

The SPM paints a less rosy, albeit more complete, picture of Latino poverty, but it is a critical alternative measure to understand if we are to interpret the economic progress of the Latino community.

PovertyBlog2015_figure2

Figure 2. Components of the Supplemental Poverty Measure. Source: Kathleen Short, The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2013 (Washington, DC: The U.S. Census Bureau, 2014).

PovertyBlog2015_figure3

Figure 3. The SPM Rates by Race/Ethnicity since 2009. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2013,” Current Population Survey. Washington, DC, 2014.; U.S. Census Bureau, “The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2011,” Current Population Survey. Washington, DC, 2012.; and U.S. Census Bureau, “The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2010,” Current Population Survey. Washington, DC, 2011.

Report Highlights Needs of Aging LGBT Latinos

AgingLGBT_blogpic_2

Photo: ep_jhu, Creative Commons

Working toward a peaceful retirement is a dream for many Americans. However, a diverse set of challenges often make growing older especially difficult for a number of groups who consistently face adversity and marginalization. A study released by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), In Their Own Words: a Needs Assessment of Hispanic LGBT Older Adults, examines how the elderly LGBT Hispanic population is coping with growing older in communities where they often face multiple levels of discrimination due to their dual identities.

While NCLR has documented the tremendous progress that has been made over the past decade in the Hispanic community with regard to the acceptance and support of LGBT people, there is limited research available on elderly people who identify as both Hispanic and LGBT. NHCOA and SAGE both advocate for the elderly in their respective communities and combined their efforts to more effectively highlight the community’s needs.

The report finds that while LGBT Latinos of all ages share similar struggles or challenges, aging LGBT Latinos are especially challenged by high levels of economic insecurity as a result of employment discrimination. Anti-LGBT bias can prevent them from maintaining stable employment throughout their lives. From the limited research that exists on same-sex Hispanic couples, for example, more than 70 percent of individuals report having full-time employment, which is certainly encouraging, but less than 25 percent reported having completed education beyond high school.

AgingLGBT_blogpic_4The report also shed light on an often overlooked issue that the elderly Hispanic LGBT population faces—social isolation. Participants in the focus groups highlighted a number of issues ranging from cultural intolerance to religion to ageism that can leave elderly LGBT Hispanics feeling left in the shadows. One participant noted that being LGBT within the Hispanic community was a “secret understanding” and that “if you don’t say it, people will accept you.” Another participant shared his experience of being isolated even within the LGBT community because “you have the factor of being invisible … because not only do you have ageism, you have the LGBT community, where being old is not looked upon well, especially with men.” Many participants noted the importance of family in overcoming social isolation, but added that they need more resources to educate their families and communities about sexual and gender identity.

Ultimately, in order to meet the needs of the elderly LGBT Hispanic population, more research needs to be done to better understand the unique challenges that they face and to develop more effective strategies that will prepare them for growing older in a stable environment. This report certainly lays the groundwork for developing a more accurate picture of the needs of a rather voiceless population. But building upon this work with outreach to this community will be the key to reversing alarming trends and to ensuring that they live out their later years happier and healthier.

Poverty Can Influence the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Latina_ChildObesity_560_292

Photo: LA Unified School District (creative commons license)

Childhood obesity has become a dangerous epidemic, especially among Latino children. There are many factors that play a role, but one of the worst is poverty: Latino children are three times more likely to live in poverty than White children, and children living in poverty are at higher risk of being obese.

The unfortunate reality is that low-income families face additional barriers to leading healthy lifestyles, resulting in weight issues that manifest themselves very early in life. For example, mothers who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are much more likely to have overweight babies. Researchers believe this is related to the high proportion of sugar-sweetened items consumed through the program.

One barrier that occurs at the family level is food insecurity, which is defined as not having access, due to physical or economic constraints, to enough safe and nutritious foods to lead a healthy life. Nearly one-quarter of Latinos report not having enough food to eat. Families facing food insecurity tend to buy cheaper, less nutritious foods in order to stretch their budgets, and they may overeat at times when they do have access to food. Such up-and-down eating patterns can lead to metabolic changes that promote fat storage.

Food insecurity is just one of many stressors that disproportionately affect low-income families. Others include low-wage work, lack of access to health care, poor housing, and neighborhood violence. Parental stress is an especially powerful risk factor for obesity in the case of Latinos. One recent study found that insufficient sleep is also a risk factor for being overweight, and sleep deprivation is higher among families with lower incomes due to crowded homes and noisy environments that affect sleep quality.

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Another barrier, neighborhood-level poverty, can play an even more significant role than family poverty after age two. Low-income neighborhoods have fewer safe and pleasant places to play, and children living in them are less likely to be physically active. Violent crime and other neighborhood conditions such as trashed streets, stray dogs, and speeding cars likewise discourage outdoor active play. Such neighborhoods feature fewer markets and more fast food outlets, and people without access to reliable transportation cannot easily shop for food in other areas.

There are ways to counteract these forces, though. Various policy initiatives, such as tax credits, zoning incentives, and technical assistance, have been shown to improve the food environment in underserved communities by encouraging supermarkets and farmers markets to open there and corner stores to expand their offerings. Revisions to food subsidy programs, such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages that offer healthier foods, have led to higher consumption of fruits and vegetables by children.

However, barely more than half of Latinos who are eligible for SNAP benefits actually use this resource due to a lack of awareness of the program, immigration concerns, and restrictions (SNAP has a five-year residency requirement, even for legal immigrants). A combination of outreach efforts and program design changes can overcome some of these constraints. NCLR is therefore teaching families about SNAP and other food assistance programs. Our goal is to make higher-quality, nutritious foods more accessible, thereby helping families climb out of poverty.

Latino Poverty Rates in Decline, Household Financial Anxiety Remains High

highway-guardrail_560x292New Census data is out which shows that Latinos’ hard work is translating into higher income and lower poverty. According to the data, there were 900,000 fewer Latinos, including 500,000 fewer Latino kids, who were living in poverty in 2013 compared to the year prior. The poverty rate is still alarmingly high at 23.5 percent for 2013, but the new data shows some improvement.

“We are pleased to see an improvement in these indicators of economic well-being. Half a million fewer Latino children in poverty is a testament to our community’s commitment to hard work and sacrifice,” said Vice President of Policy, Eric Rodriguez in a statement. “However, all American workers, including Latinos, would have experienced greater gains had it not been for the congressional choices that have stunted economic growth and slashed investments in education, housing and nutrition services. This austerity agenda, together with stagnant wages, has left too many working families without sufficient income or supports to meet their basic needs.”

You can read more in our analysis of the data, available below.

2013 Data Latino Poverty Analysis