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Aug. 13, 2015

Michigan’s Latino population has growing pains, report shows

Southeast Michigan’s growing Latino population boasts the state’s highest labor force participation rate, a measurement of the number of people employed or actively looking for work. But the community struggles in other areas that measure well-being and quality of life, finds a report released by the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University.

As the state’s Latino population surges while white and African-American populations are in decline, the report shows that Latinos struggle in education performance, income and poverty levels, employment rates and health status.

Latino communities suffer from low-income levels and high poverty rates, especially among children. In Detroit, 52 percent of Latino children live in poverty. From 2009 to 2013, about 30 percent of Latinos in Michigan were living in poverty compared to 12.6 percent of whites. In the same time period the median income for Latino households in Michigan was estimated at $36,702, far below the overall statewide median household income of $47,793.

Latinos are the least represented in managerial, professional, sales and office occupations, and have consistently lower rates of self-employment and business ownership in each of the measured counties. They are more likely than other groups to be in service occupations, production, transportation, farming, fishing and hunting and forestry occupations. Despite holding lower paying jobs, Latinos have a higher labor force participation rate at 67.4 percent than all other racial or ethnic groups, while Asians hold the next highest at 63.7 percent.

“Latinos are a core segment of Michigan’s overall population. They contribute to the state’s economic security and cultural diversity,” said Rubén Martinez, director of the JSRI. “It is imperative that policies, initiatives and services address their needs. It will position Michigan for a brighter future”

Latinos in Southeast Michigan voted in high numbers in the 2012 general election, but there is a belief among these communities that progress has been halted by the implementation of anti-immigration policies and practices. The communities are concerned with the lack of comprehensive immigration reform and about the well-being of family members amidst aggressive immigration enforcement, and lack information about services available in the community.

The report reflected a concern for community well-being throughout the Latino communities, which lag behind whites on all educational performance and attainment indicators, and suffer high dropout rates and low college attendance rates. Latino elders are concerned about public safety, young adults are concerned about peer pressures to engage in high-risk behaviors and the communities in general are concerned about poor public transportation and poor relations with police.

“This study presents an opportunity to bring issues to the attention of policy makers, service providers and community leaders so that we can address the needs in Latino communities,” Martinez said. “We want everyone to recognize societal and economic challenges among Latinos, and understand that these are often similar challenges for other population groups, as well."

The study was funded by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Davidson Foundation. More information is available at