The United States has been — and continues to be — one of the most popular destinations for immigrants from around the world. Immigrants from Latin American countries and other Spanish-speaking people in particular have become one of the nation’s fastest growing demographics. The United States may be a good place to live compared to many other countries, but every new wave of immigrants — along with second and third generation Hispanic Americans — continues to face various levels of discrimination.
In many of the worst states for Hispanic Americans, there are opportunities to get a steady job, earn decent wages, and buy a home in a thriving community. These opportunities, however, are not uniformly accessible across racial and ethnic lines. Based on an examination of a number of socioeconomic measures, 24/7 Wall St. identified the worst states for Hispanic Americans.
The nation’s Hispanic population is far from homogeneous. Residents originally from Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and a number of other countries all identify as Hispanic or Latino. Mexicans are by far the largest group, making up 64% of people who identify as Hispanic or Latino. Mexicans dominate the Hispanic populations in four of the 10 states on this list, while Puerto Ricans make up the largest share in five. In Rhode Island, Dominicans are the largest population within the Hispanic community.
Nationally, Hispanics earn less, are more likely to be unemployed and to live in poverty, and are less likely to own their homes compared to whites. These disparities are especially pronounced in the 10 worst states for Hispanics.
Nationwide, the annual median income of white households exceeds that of Hispanic households by $16,874. In the 10 worst states, the income gap is almost always greater than the national disparity. In Massachusetts and Connecticut, white households earn more than double the earnings of Hispanic households. With more resources, whites are more likely to be able to purchase a home. Two-thirds or more of white homes are owned by their occupants in all but one of these states. By contrast, fewer than half of Hispanic homes are owned by their occupants, and in most of these 10 states Hispanic homeownership rates are even lower.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Valerie Wilson, director of the program on race and ethnicity at the Economic Policy Institute think tank, noted that the relative youth of America’s Hispanic population may play a role in the income gap. The median age of Hispanics is 28.4 years, well below the median age for whites of 43.1 years. Not only that, but many Hispanics and their families are relatively new to the United States.
“It takes time for people to get familiar with an area, to build a network for finding jobs, and to build their family’s security,” Wilson said. Especially for newer immigrants, language barriers can also limit access to higher-paying jobs.
While income inequality can hurt anyone, it is often the case that it manifests specifically along ethnic and racial lines. That is, white populations earn more, and non-whites earn considerably less.
Wilson explained that areas with severe ethnic and racial inequalities tend to be highly segregated. As a consequence, “access to various resources, education, jobs, and so on, will vary a lot based on where people live.”
Financial distress and extremely poor economic conditions often have a ripple effect and are closely tied with other poor outcomes. Hispanics in every state are more likely to go to prison than their white peers. Relatively impoverished, isolated, and segregated communities tend to be policed more, and the greater number of police encounters may also partially explain the higher level of incarceration.
Higher education boosts income and wealth regardless of race or ethnicity. According to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, higher education levels also help families protect their wealth and to better withstand economic shocks during recessions and downturns. However, the researchers found that these benefits are far less of an advantage to Hispanic families than they are for white and Asian families.
Wilson noted that whether or not members of Hispanic communities are documented may also play a role, although it can be difficult to pinpoint the effect since data does not often capture them. “Folks who are undocumented may be less likely to file charges or complain when they feel they’re being discriminated against, either in their pay or their employment,” Wilson said.Therefore, the disparities might be underestimated.