Researchers are sounding the alarm as the nation’s fastest growing ethnic group—Latinos—are found to consistently under-perform academically compared to their white, Asian and black counterparts. Often behind their peers even at the beginning of their academic careers, the gap only tends to widen as student progress through school.
Vanessa Cardenas, vice president of the immigration research organization Progress 2050, says the situation has significant consequences in terms of the nation’s stability. Progress 2050 is the immigration research arm of the Center for American Progress.
“Closing racial gaps is no longer only a moral imperative for the nation. but it’s also an economic imperative given the demographic changes,” said Cárdenas. “By the time our kids are entering into kindergarten they are already behind and it’s not like non-Hispanic kids are waiting around for them to catch up. As they advance, every year the gap becomes bigger.”
Experts say it’s common for Latino immigrant students to live in homes where family members only speak Spanish. For many 5-year-olds, then, the first day of kindergarten is their introduction to English. Additionally, teachers who don’t speak Spanish have little opportunity to build any significant rapport with students who are more comfortable with their native language.
In terms of specifics, Latinos run behind in terms of reading and math. Latino SAT scores trend lower than non-Latino scores. High school and college graduation rates are also lower for the Latino demographic than they are for others. According to reported numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics, trends over the past quarter century show Latinos dropping out of school at higher rates than any other ethnic group.
At the college level, data from the U.S. Department of Education shows 74 percent of associate degrees earned in the country go to white students; 11 percent go to black students; 9 percent go to Hispanics. For students earning bachelors degrees, 77 percent are white; 9 percent of students are black; 6 percent of these graduates are Hispanic. At the highest levels of academia, only 5 percent of master and doctoral degrees are awarded to Hispanics.