The Worst States for Hispanics

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Comprising nearly 18% if the population, Hispanics and Latinos are one of the largest and fastest growing demographic groups in the United States. Americans who identify as Hispanic or Latino trace their ancestry to Spanish-speaking Latin American countries like Cuba, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Though they represent an integral part of American society, Hispanics and Latinos continue to lag behind white American residents in important socioeconomic measures.

In an exchange with 24/7 Wall St., Valerie Wilson, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy for the nonpartisan think tank Economic Policy Institute, laid out some root causes of the problem. “Like African Americans, the lower average socioeconomic conditions of Hispanics can be traced to limited access to opportunities that enhance [economic] mobility,” Wilson said. These opportunities include high-quality education, good jobs, and wealth.

Hispanics in the United States are four times more likely than whites to be incarcerated. They are twice as likely to live in poverty, and about 50% more likely to be unemployed. Hispanic adults are also less likely to have completed high school or college and are far less likely than white Americans to own a home.

As staggering as the gaps in these and other socioeconomic outcomes are nationwide, they pale in comparison to the disparities in some states. 24/7 Wall St. created an index of nine measures of prosperity that compares outcomes among Hispanic and white Americans. According to Wilson, the differences between Hispanic and white Americans in each state are often a reflection of the state’s efforts to meet the needs of different communities.

While disparities exist in every state, the states with the worst outcome gaps often have high median incomes and tend to be concentrated in the Northeast and the Midwest.

Geography: White poverty rate: Hispanic poverty rate: White homeownership rate: Hispanic homeownership rate:
United States 10.3% 22.2% 71.6% 46.4%
1. Rhode Island 9.1% 28.9% 67.2% 27.7%
2. Massachusetts 7.4% 27.6% 69.7% 25.4%
3. Connecticut 5.9% 23.0% 76.2% 33.8%
4. Pennsylvania 9.4% 30.8% 74.4% 40.6%
5. North Carolina 11.1% 30.1% 73.0% 44.3%
6. New York 9.8% 24.4% 66.9% 25.1%
7. Wisconsin 9.2% 24.8% 71.7% 39.7%
8. Nebraska 9.0% 22.7% 70.3% 47.2%
9. Minnesota 7.5% 20.9% 76.4% 44.7%
10. South Dakota 9.2% 24.8% 71.8% 40.6%
11. Georgia 11.1% 26.7% 73.4% 45.4%
12. Iowa 10.0% 22.7% 74.1% 50.8%
13. South Carolina 11.2% 28.6% 76.2% 46.1%
14. Tennessee 13.3% 30.5% 72.4% 39.7%
15. New Jersey 6.3% 19.6% 76.9% 35.9%
16. Alabama 12.7% 32.3% 76.3% 47.2%
17. Delaware 8.1% 24.3% 79.5% 47.3%
18. Arkansas 14.1% 29.6% 71.5% 49.3%
19. Washington 9.8% 21.5% 67.2% 42.9%
20. Ohio 11.5% 26.1% 71.9% 44.4%
21. Mississippi 13.0% 27.0% 77.3% 45.9%
22. Maryland 6.6% 13.8% 76.8% 48.6%
23. New Hampshire 7.5% 18.4% 72.5% 38.0%
24. Utah 8.8% 20.4% 73.3% 50.5%
25. California 9.9% 20.6% 63.3% 43.1%
26. Illinois 8.9% 18.3% 74.5% 52.2%
27. Kansas 10.1% 22.4% 70.8% 51.5%
28. Colorado 8.5% 19.3% 69.9% 48.8%
29. Oregon 12.6% 24.0% 65.1% 40.8%
30. Indiana 11.5% 25.6% 73.8% 52.8%
31. Oklahoma 12.6% 24.9% 70.8% 51.3%
32. Kentucky 16.7% 29.5% 71.0% 35.5%
33. Louisiana 12.1% 23.1% 75.4% 45.2%
34. North Dakota 8.3% 18.2% 66.8% 36.9%
35. Idaho 12.8% 22.7% 71.5% 52.3%
36. Texas 8.8% 23.0% 70.5% 56.9%
37. Wyoming 9.5% 21.1% 71.2% 56.6%
38. Missouri 12.1% 24.2% 72.0% 49.8%
39. Arizona 10.9% 25.1% 69.8% 51.4%
40. Nevada 10.1% 19.4% 62.9% 44.0%
41. Michigan 11.9% 24.1% 77.3% 56.1%
42. Virginia 8.5% 15.0% 73.2% 47.3%
43. Alaska 6.5% 11.4% 68.7% 43.8%
44. Montana 12.4% 20.9% 69.7% 50.0%
45. Maine 12.0% 19.9% 73.3% 49.1%
46. New Mexico 12.4% 24.8% 72.2% 65.5%
47. Florida 10.9% 19.8% 73.5% 51.0%
48. West Virginia 17.1% 24.2% 74.4% 53.0%
49. Vermont 10.9% 14.9% 71.6% 48.2%
50. Hawaii 9.7% 14.1% 55.1% 38.5%

Every new immigrant population faces challenges upon settling in the United States. Cultural differences, language barriers, and xenophobia can all hinder socioeconomic progress for the newest Americans — and Hispanics and Latinos are no exception.

“Immigration is a unique challenge, not in the sense that it only affects or is relevant to Americans of Hispanic ancestry, but because such a large share of the Hispanic population are foreign-born,” Wilson said. And new, foreign-born immigrants often have fewer economic resources and lower levels of education.

To determine the worst states for Hispanic and Latino Americans, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of nine measures to assess gaps between Hispanic and white demographic groups in each state. Creating the index in this way highlights disparities between racial groups rather than what may be a particularly poor socioeconomic climate in a state for both whites and Hispanics. For each measure, we constructed and normalized an index from the disparities between white and Hispanic Americans.

To construct the index, we used 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey on median household income, poverty rates, high school and college educational attainment rates, and homeownership rates — each broken down by ethnicity. Unemployment rates for 2017 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Incarceration rates came from the Prison Policy Initiative, a Massachusetts-based think tank, and are as of 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we considered 2010-2014 rate estimates for age-adjusted mortality and infant mortality.

In addition to data incorporated into the index, we also considered the share of students with limited English proficiency from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population in each state, from the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington D.C. Data on age, citizenship status, and country of origin came from the 2017 ACS.