Report reveals ‘unsettling’ disparities for Latinos in Multnomah County
El Hispanic News
Portland, OR — From income and homeownership levels to high school graduation rates, Latinos continue to lag far behind whites in Multnomah County, and in some cases the gap is becoming even wider.
Those are among the findings of “The Latino Community in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile,” a report that emerged from three years of research by Portland State University’s School of Social Work and the Coalition of Communities of Color.
Speakers highlighted the “alarming” and “startling” results of the report at a reception held for its release Jan. 25 in PSU’s Smith Memorial Student Union.
The disparities are “broader and deeper than I … ever imagined,” said the report’s author, Ann Curry-Stevens, an assistant professor in PSU’s School of Social Work.
“Mostly we’re getting worse across time,” she added.
Curry-Stevens said that in the county, about one in 16 white adults (6.3 percent) hasn’t graduated high school. Almost one of every two Latinos (43.7 percent) hasn’t graduated. “That number is not getting better,” she said.
Among the report’s other findings for Multnomah County:
- The percentage of whites earning below average incomes has held steady at 45 percent, while the percentage has risen from 56 percent in 1989 to 65 percent today for Latino households.
- Latinos fare worse economically in the county compared to elsewhere in the U.S., while whites fare better here than nationally.
- The number of Latino high school graduates moving into higher education has gone from 60 percent in 2001 to 55 percent in 2005. Fewer than half of the Latinos who enroll in higher education will graduate.
- Thirty-one percent of Latinos and 60 percent of whites are homeowners. This gap is getting larger due to the disproportionate impact of foreclosures on minorities. Nationally, the Latino homeownership rate is almost 50 percent.
Curry-Stevens said the data show that “institutional racism is alive and well.” She asked her audience to read the full report as a first step of action.
“Then we can get to work on solutions,” she said.
The report is available for download at www.coalitioncommunitiescolor.org/.
Carmen Rubio, speaking on behalf of the Coalition of Communities of Color, said “antiquated institutions” are struggling to serve a fast-growing Latino population. She called for greater investment, especially in the areas of early education, health, and civil development, if these disparities are to be eliminated.
“It’s my hope that we will all own these outcomes and we will work to improve them,” Rubio said.
Also on hand to speak in support of the report and pledge action were Gov. John Kitzhaber, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, and City Commissioner Nick Fish.
“We cannot afford to place this report on a shelf,” Fish said. “We must act, and we must act now.”
The reception also marked the release of the Oregon Latino Agenda for Action’s policy priorities, which were shaped during the group’s 2010 statewide summit. Among those priorities: more involvement of Latino parents in schools, support for Latino entrepreneurs, greater investments in public health and prevention education, and access to drivers licenses for undocumented residents.
For more information on the Oregon Latino Agenda for Action, visit www.olaaction.org/.
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