A new national survey finds that Latinos ages 16 to 25 are satisfied with their lives and optimistic about their futures. They value education, hard work and career success. But they are more likely than other youths to drop out of school, live in poverty and become teen parents. They also have high levels of exposure to gangs. And when it comes to self-identity, most straddle two worlds.
This comprehensive report from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the nonpartisan, non-advocacy Pew Research Center, comes at a time when one in four U.S. newborns is Hispanic; never before in U.S. history has a minority ethnic group made up so large a share of the youngest Americans.
The study, "Between Two Worlds: How Latino Youths Come of Age in America," is based on new analysis of government demographic, economic, education and health data sets; a series of focus groups; and a survey conducted from Aug. 5 through Sept. 16, 2009, among a random national sample of 2,012 Hispanics ages 16 and older, with an oversample of 1,240 Hispanics ages 16 to 25. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish, on cellular as well as landline telephones. The report offers a generational analysis of the behaviors, values and experiences of Latino youth who are immigrants themselves (about one-third) and those who are the children and grandchildren (or higher) of immigrants.
The report is the first in a new yearlong research series from the Pew Research Center examining the values, attitudes and experiences of America's Millennials. Key findings include:
- Two-thirds of Hispanics ages 16 to 25 are native-born Americans. This year marks the first time that a plurality (37%) of Latinos in this age group are the U.S.-born children of immigrants. An additional 29% are of third-or-higher generations. Just 34% are immigrants themselves. Back in 1995, nearly half all Latinos ages 16 to 25 were immigrants.
- Latinos make up about 18% of all youths in the U.S. ages 16 to 25. However, their share is far higher in a number of states. They make up 51% of all youths in New Mexico, 42% in California, 40% in Texas, 36% in Arizona, 31% in Nevada, 24% in Florida, and 24% in Colorado.
- About 17% of all Hispanics and 22% of all Hispanic youths ages 16 to 25 are unauthorized immigrants, according to Pew Hispanic Center estimates. Some 41% of all foreign-born Hispanics and 58% of foreign-born Hispanic youth are estimated to be unauthorized immigrants.
Race, Identity & Discrimination:
- Asked which term they generally use first to describe themselves, young Hispanics show a strong preference for their family's country of origin (52%) over American (24%) or the terms Hispanic or Latino (20%). Among the U.S.-born children of immigrants, the share that identifies first as American rises to one-in-three, and among the third and higher generation, it rises to half.
- More young Hispanics say their parents have often spoken to them of their pride in their family's country of origin than say their parents have often talked to them of their pride in being American-42% versus 29%. More say they have often been encouraged by their parents to speak in Spanish than say they have often been encouraged to speak only in English-60% versus 22%.
- Among foreign-born Latinos ages 16 to 25, just 48% say they can speak English very well or pretty well. Among their U.S.-born counterparts, that figures doubles to 98%.
- Nearly four-in-ten (38%) young Latinos say they, a relative or close friend has been the target of ethnic or racial discrimination. This is higher than the share of older Latinos who say the same (31%). Also, perceptions of discrimination are more widespread among U.S.-born (41%) than foreign-born (32%) young Latinos.
- Most young Hispanics do not see themselves fitting into the race framework of the U.S. Census Bureau. More than three-in-four (76%) say their race is "some other race" or volunteer that their race is "Hispanic or Latino." Young Hispanics also do not see their race in the same way as Hispanics ages 26 and older. Only 16% of Hispanic youths identify themselves as white, while nearly twice as many (30%) adult Hispanics (30%) identify their race as white.
Teen Parenthood & Risk Behaviors
- According to the center's analysis of Census data, about one-in-four young Hispanic females (26%) become a mother by age 19. This compares with a rate of 22% among young black females, 11% among young white females, and 6% among young Asian females.
- About three-in-ten (31%) young Latinos say they have a friend or relative who is a current or former gang member. This degree of familiarity with gangs is much more prevalent among the U.S.-born than the foreign born-40% versus 17%. Young Latinos of Mexican origin are nearly twice as likely as other young Latinos to say that a friend or a relative is a member of a gang - 37% versus 19%.
- Some 17% of U.S.-born Latino youths say they got into a fight in the past year, compared with just 7% of foreign-born youths.
Life Satisfaction, Economics, & Education
- Large numbers of both U.S-born Latino youth (75%) and foreign-born (66%) expect to be better off financially than their parents.
- Like most youths, young Latinos express high levels of satisfaction with their lives, with half saying they are "very" satisfied and 45% saying they are "mostly" satisfied.
- Even more so than other youths, young Latinos have high aspirations for career success. Some 89% say it is very important in their lives, compared with 80% of the full population of 18- to 25-year-olds who say the same.
- The household income of young Latinos lags well behind that of young whites and slightly ahead of young blacks. Poverty rates follow the same pattern: Some 23% of young Latinos live in poverty, compared with 13% of young whites and 28% of young blacks. The poverty rate among young Latinos declines significantly from the first generation (29%) to the second (19%).
- More than half (52%) of all employed foreign-born youths are in lower skill occupations, compared with 27% of U.S.-born Latino youths.
- The high school dropout rate among Latino youths (17%) is nearly three times as high as it is among white youths (6%) and nearly double the rate among blacks (9%).
- Nearly all Latino youths (89%) and older adults (88%) agree with the statement that a college degree is important for getting ahead in life. But just under half of Latinos ages 18 to 25 say they plan to get a college degree. The reason most often given by Latino youths who cut off their education before college is financial pressure to support a family.