Vol. 45, No. 11
The educational attainment of Hispanics currently lags behind the rest of the nation, and the differences begin as early as kindergarten.
Hispanic children under the age of 5 are less likely to be enrolled in early education programs than whites or blacks. They are overrepresented in families living in poverty, and they are underrepresented in Head Start programs that help counteract the effect of poverty on educational achievement. Hispanics often take general courses that satisfy only the basic education requirements, rather than those that provide access to four-year colleges or rigorous technical schools, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century study. This may explain why some Hispanics lack the educational requirements for jobs with advancement opportunities.
The high school dropout rate among Hispanics is much higher than for other groups, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In 1998, 30 percent of all Hispanics age 16 to 25 were dropouts, more than double the rate for blacks (14 percent) and more than three times the rate for non-Hispanic whites (8 percent).
Among Hispanic groups, people of Mexican origin have the lowest share (50 percent) with a high school diploma or higher. Other Hispanic groups’ proportions of people with a high school diploma or more were Puerto Ricans and Central and South Americans (64 percent each), Hispanics from the Caribbean and other countries (71 percent), and Cubans (70 percent).
One third of Hispanics today are under age 18, and Hispanic students will represent about 25 percent of the K-12 population by 2025. Between 1978 and 1998, the enrollment of Hispanics in public elementary schools increased 157 percent, compared to 20 percent for black students and 10 percent for white students. In 2005, projections indicate that more than 6.2 million Hispanic children will fall into the 5-to-13 age bracket, while another 2.6 will be high school age. If Hispanics aren’t receiving the proper education, as the DOL study indicates, then many of them will lack the preparation and qualifications necessary for higher-level jobs.
The DOL’s Futurework report points out that lower educational attainment rates for Hispanics are due in part to the lower educational attainment of all immigrants to the United States. While 57 percent of Hispanics born outside the United States have less than a high-school education, only 31 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics have less than a high school diploma. As of 1997, four out of 10 Hispanics were born outside the United States, according to the Census Bureau.