Great Potential: Latinos in a Changing America
Latinos must take control of their own destiny by working within and outside of their social networks
Latinos continue to be misunderstood in the United States. Yet, many in the U.S. can no longer ignore the nation's largest racial minority group. It's not surprising, especially given that in 1970, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos comprised an estimated 9 million or 4.5% of the nation's total population. Today, however, Latinos consist of an estimated 50 million residents or 17% of total population. By 2050, they're projected to grow to 133 million or 30% of the total population. While growth rates are important, the real news is the difference between the median-age of various racial/ethnic groups: for whites, the median age is 42; for Asian-Pacific Islanders, it is 35; for African-Americans, it is 32, and for Latinos, it is 27. All this change on the youth side has widened the racial generation gap. Thus, maybe it's time to reflect on this dynamic demographic trend.
Published on LatinoLA: April 7, 2014
Latinos represent a puzzle to any country, since no other advanced economy in the world has a similarly large, young and fast growing population. America's peers are growing slowly and aging. While this phenomena presents the U.S. with significant future advantages--more active consumers, entrepreneurs, idea generators, skilled labor and workers in their prime earning years, it has seemingly created little optimism and much confusion and angst. The general view is that Latinos basically consist of low-wage, service labor or cheap labor.
Looking back into recent history, timing hasn't played well for Latinos. For the most part, they missed the "foundational" years between 1947 and 1973--an era when many American families were able to establish the educational and socio-economic framework to compete in what was to become a dramatically changing and highly competitive world dominated by technology, information processing and high-end services. In many ways, it's been catch-up for Latinos ever since.
Today, much of the policy and media attention regarding Latinos centers on immigration. While this is an important issue, we need to examine an array of issues impacting Latinos in particular and the country in general. For instance, who's going to pay for Medicare and Social Security benefits and other costs of an aging society, especially with the estimated 80 million aging Baby-Boomers who recently began to draw on these indispensable government programs? In 2005, there were 59 youth (non-workers) and elderly combined for every 100 workers; in 2050, the youth/elderly figure will increase to 72. If not for the younger Latino population and other racial groups, the United States would be grappling with a shrinking labor force like most European countries, Japan, Korea, and China with its one-child policy.
In my recently published book, "Great Potential: Latinos in a Changing America" by Author-House (2013), I argue that if more Americans understood the concrete global challenges to our economic prosperity or lack thereof, they would value an investment in Latinos, especially the youth, even if from a self-interest perspective. Moreover, while my book closely examines the economic challenges Latinos experience in this country, it also focuses on strategies that Latino families and communities throughout the nation can adopt to build a better future for themselves and the nation.
Specifically, my book advances three overarching strategies: 1) Help make households smarter through the right amount of critical information, including language programs that promote essential English skills, early childhood education, extended family support, technological know-how and other essential programs; 2) Strengthen the neighborhoods and families by thinking and focusing on the existing social capital and social networks that can offer support and collective action; and 3) Coordinate all sectors that can offer financial and other support to advance the local plans created by these neighborhoods and families.
Finally, to achieve these realistic goals, Latinos must take control of their own destiny by working within and outside of their social networks. Given that they posses the necessary intelligence, determination, and strong work ethic to meet these challenges, Latinos must think strategically and act collectively (and individually) to get ahead in our highly sophisticated and increasingly globalized society.
More info at: https://sites.google.com/site/greatpotentiallatinos/
Steve Moya is a successful entrepreneur, consultant, philanthropist and author.
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