Latinos and other communities of color—hit harder in the recession and recovering much slower than whites—have a deeper economic hole to climb out of and the government should target them specifically with quality jobs, according to a report released by the Center for American Progress on the eve of President Barack Obama’s state of the union address on Tuesday.
The State of Communities of Color also compiles data on African American, Asian and Native American people. It paints a “depressing” (in CAP senior fellow and study co-author Christian Weller’s words) picture of our situation. Comparing present numbers to pre-recession numbers shows that gains that Latinos had made from 2001-2007 were not only erased by the economic downturn, but in many cases, exacerbated. We have higher unemployment and poverty rates, and less access to retirement plans.
Here are some of the findings for Latinos:
- Latinos’ unemployment rate remains stuck at 13% (second only to African Americans’ nearly 16%) compared to 8.7% for whites. Our 2001 rate: 6%.
- Latinos have the lowest median weekly pay: $532, compared to $623 for African Americans and $877 for whites.
- While unemployment rates for minorities rose faster than for whites during the recession, home ownership among Latinos plummeted. It’s an area in which we had made a substantial 5% gain from 2001 to 2007, but after the recession, only 47 percent of us own homes, similar to 2001 numbers.
- Our poverty rate, which had held steady at 21.5% during 200 through 2007, jumped to 25.3 in 2009.
Weller said that “the recession made a bad situation worse," while Catherine Singley of the NCLR added, "We need bold policies to jump start demand and build jobs."
The government needs to give employers (especially in the food and service industries) incentives to pay workers a living wage, and tackle immigration reform and create a path to citizenship for the colossal workforce of 12 million estimated undocumented immigrants. He added that Congress and Obama’s administration should also push for an end to the predatory lending practices that led to so many home foreclosures for Latino and black families during the recession. "Focus can’t be just job creation, but making sure that we spread the benefits of economic growth more evenly across groups,” concluded Weller.