My Brother’s Keeper

Yesterday, the President announced a new initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper”, which is focused on advancing opportunity for young men of color and making sure that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get ahead.” The initiative will focus on implementing strategies that are proven to get results, particularly at key transition or impact points, like beginning school ready to learn and reducing negative interactions with the criminal justice system. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has been working in support of this initiative, with a particular focus on improving academic and other outcomes for young Latino males, and will continue to engage the Hispanic community to advance the President’s goals. To that end, the Initiative recently organized a meeting for academics, researchers, funders and thought leaders to discuss young Latino males, the issues they face, and the potential they hold for America.

“As a group, young Latino males make up the greatest untapped economic resource in the U.S. today.”

That was the consensus of the group who met at the White House mid-January. “We cannot wait” was a common theme, as the panel members who gathered in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building committed themselves to action such as continuing research on the education and life outcomes of young Latinos and building a pipeline for more Latino teachers and school leaders in our school system.

Student speaking at Latino Males Roundtable

However, the voices that resonated weren’t just those of professionals. Latino male college students who attended informed the dialogue by speaking about their personal experiences. One student who is currently enrolled at a university in Maryland praised the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has allowed him to afford in-state tuition at his university. He will graduate next year.

Still, he is currently an exception. While there is reason for celebration – the high school graduation rate among Hispanics has been increasing, college enrollment numbers are up, etc., we know that there is still a great deal of work to do, particularly for Latino males. According to the Digest of Education Statistics, in 2011, the percentage of 18 to 24 year-old Latinos who held a high school diploma was 73 percent, while the percentage of African American and white diploma holders were 79 percent and 89 percent respectively. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau found that only 15 percent of young Latinos, aged 25-29, hold a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, within the Latino community, women are more likely to complete college than men. In an issue brief on Latino male education, Dr. Victor Saenz and Dr. Luis Ponjuan analyzed U.S. Census data and found that of the bachelor’s degrees awarded to Latinos in 2009, women who received degrees outnumbered males by nearly 30,000. These figures ought to be a wake-up call to those concerned about the future of our country. We celebrate Latina student achievement, but we need to work to ensure that academic performance for young males is increasing on an equal pace, not falling behind their female peers.

Latinos have one of the largest levels of educational disparity compared to any other group nationally; however, there is great potential for contribution to our economy and our society from the Latino community. Latinos make up the largest and the fastest-growing minority group in America and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinos will account for 80% of the total growth of the labor force from 2010 to 2050. Increased educational achievement for Latinos from cradle to career would in turn lead to higher paid wages in the workforce. Increased wages would lead to a higher standard of living for those families, greater investment in homeownership, and more revenue to support public services, like social security, as well. All of these results are achievable, but there must be more research and investment in Latino education, including with a focus on Latino males, so that problems of educational disparity can be solved and the economic potential of Latinos in the United States can be realized.

For further information:

US Census Bureau – Educational Attainment in the United States: 2013 – Detailed Tables

“Men of Color: Ensuring the Academic Success of Latino Males in Higher Education” by Victor B. Saenz, Ph.D. and Luis Ponjuan, Ph.D.

Eliot Griggs

This blogpost was written by Eliot Griggs, an intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics