LOS ANGELES – Latinas remain more vulnerable to economic downturns than others due to lower incomes, educational attainment and job skills, according to a study published by the Los Angeles County-based Hispanas Organized for Political Equality.
The study, “Economic Status of Latinas Report — Increasing Opportunity in Education to Address Barriers to Economic Prosperity,” found that in California, nearly 30% of all Latina women lost their jobs in the first months of the pandemic, and nearly 40% of undocumented Latinas lost their jobs.
The report addresses the impact COVID-19 has had on Latinas and how education, from K-12 to college completion, is the pathway to equitable prosperity, and imperative to ensuring economic recovery.
In 2018, the number of Latinas in the U.S. increased to 29.6 million, representing 9% of the total U.S. population. In California, Latinas numbered 7.72 million, or 19.5% of the state’s total population that year. The Latina statewide high school graduation rate was at a high of 86% in 2019, although a gap with white women (91%) persists. Graduation rates are lower for Latina English learners (71%), according to HOPE.
Meanwhile, the study found that Latina women are entrepreneurial, creating 2.3 million new firms nationwide — or 18% of all women-owned businesses between 2014 and 2019.
The purpose of the research is to provide policymakers with platform recommendations positioned to give Latinas equal opportunity and access to economic prosperity that can financially benefit all California, the organization said.
“Latinas have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic both in health and work, highlighting the systemic racism that holds our communities back,” said Helen Torres, executive director of HOPE. “While Latinas remain resilient, policymakers must implement policies and support programs to advance Latinas’ economic recovery and eliminate inequalities, for example, Latinas’ pay gap.”
The study shows that higher education continues to be the best investment toward a rewarding career, with higher annual and lifetime earnings than high school graduates.
Non-Latina white females who recently graduated high school were considerably less likely to enroll in a California community college and more likely to enroll in an out-of-state college. In contrast, Latinas were more likely to enroll in a 2-year than 4-year institution. Despite being eligible, too few Latinas are being admitted to and enrolling in University of California and California State University system institutions and the effects of COVID-19 may seriously affect future enrollment of qualified Latina students, according to HOPE.
Early indications are that students in general plan to enroll in institutions that are closer to home and present a lower cost — placing a premium on California’s community colleges — in the face of uncertainty about the effects of the pandemic in Fall 2020, the study found.
While many Latinas found success during California’s sustained economic growth over the decade since the 2008 recession, as a group, Latinas remain vulnerable to economic downturns. They have suffered disproportionately greater financial losses since the beginning of the pandemic-induced recession, exacerbated by worse COVID-19 health outcomes. It is projected California’s Latinas will follow the pattern from the previous recession of making greater strides early in the recovery period, but taking longer to recoup lost gains than other demographic groups over the subsequent decade.
“The report backs up the lived experiences of systemic barriers and economic challenges that have kept Latinas from flourishing,” said research author Dr. Elsa Macias. “HOPE has given us a glimpse of the many hurdles Latinas are still facing and a road map to ensure a more equitable future.”
What is evident in the study is that Latinas remain determined and resilient, HOPE said. Latinas are young, civic-minded and entrepreneurial, making up a large proportion of California’s school-aged children and the college-going population. In the midst of uncertainties and challenges posed by the worst public health crisis in a century, the report establishes a historical baseline of the economic well-being of Latinas against which the effects of the current financial downturn can be compared, according to the organization.