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Keeping an Eye on Hispanic Children: Less Poverty, Exciting Initiatives

New data on poverty was recently released from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which showed that the overall poverty rate among children fell from 2012 to 2013, the latest year for which data are available. While the official measure of poverty is methodologically flawed for a variety of reasons, the data compiled are still a vital tool to tell us how well we’re fighting poverty over time – and the news is good.

Particularly exciting was the drop in poverty among young Hispanic children: roughly 80,000 fewer Hispanic children under the age five lived in poverty in 2013, a statistically significant decline. This is important news not only for those individual children and their families, but for all of us. In 16 states, Hispanic children under five represent 20 percent or more of all children under five. In fact, in three state – New Mexico, Texas, and California – Hispanic children younger than five represent a majority of children under five. 

Source: 2013 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates.

Note: Not featured here are the states of Alaska and Hawaii. Their under-five Hispanic populations represent 10 and 20 percent of their total child population under five, respectively.  

 

In a single generation these children will comprise a vast proportion of this nation’s students, workers, and taxpayers. Hispanic-owned businesses are among the fastest growing in the country. College enrollment is higher for Hispanic high school graduates than their white peers.

Yet, structural barriers to education and economic security are still serious challenges for this community. For years, we’ve seen and read stories about Hispanic families around the country facing diminishing opportunities. With the release of this year’s Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this sad story is being re-told again with new cold, hard statistics.

So it’s encouraging to see the range of organizations across the country that are committed to using early interventions to improve the lives of Hispanic children and their families. These organizations are finding new and innovative ways to give young Hispanic children more opportunities. For example:

  • Abriendo Puertas (Opening Doors), one of the largest programs in the country working with preschool-aged Hispanic children, focuses on empowering parents with information on early child development, helping them engage in critical activities, like reading and talking to their children in the earliest years. The program places a premium on cultural sensitivity and engaging parents as their child’s first teacher. It seems to be working. A recent evaluation by Child Trends found that parents enrolled in the program began incorporating more educational activities with their children in the earliest years, such as reviewing letters in the alphabet and reading to their children – critical brain-building activities.
  • Along with building parental skills critical to child success, organizations like National Council of La Raza are building momentum in states and communities to make meaningful policy change on behalf of young children. Their efforts have focused on engaging policymakers to boost Hispanic access to preschool education and building crucial workforce skills among Hispanic youth. At their recent national conference in Kansas City, they even hosted a town hall on ways communities can reduce the word gap and build a stronger future for young Hispanic children.
  • And through Univision, Next Generation’s own national initiative, Too Small to Fail, has built a unique public education and awareness campaign focused on children from birth to five. Called Pequeños y Valiosos (Young and Valuable), this media partnership has reached hundreds of thousands of parents and caregivers through news broadcasts, talk shows, online content, PSAs, and much more. Through a vast array of Univision affiliates, Pequeños y Valiosos has engaged parents directly, encouraging them to spend 15 minutes a day talking, reading, and singing to their children.

Through these and other major efforts across the country, parents, advocate, and researchers are hoping to ensure that fewer and fewer Hispanic children live in poverty and suffer from its effects. With efforts that engage policymakers, empower parents with new tools and routines, and educate the broader public through smart public awareness campaigns, such a hope may soon be a reality.

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