A new Latino Community Association report explores population trends, Latinos' rising share of the workforce, income and employment, and how Latinos fare in health, education and the high-priced housing market in Central Oregon.
The Latino Community Association released data on the status and well-being of local Latinos on Oct. 12 with its new report: Latinos in Central Oregon: A Community Profile in Statistics and Stories. The report centers on Latinos living in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties.
The nonprofit organization works to empower Latino families and children in the tri-county area and builds bridges across cultures to create a more resilient Central Oregon.
For the report, LCA staff and volunteers researched the most recent census and local education and health data, including an LCA survey on emotional well-being, and then interviewed Latinos, who described how they experience Central Oregon.
"I hope this report really opens a lot of eyes because it surprised me, some of the things we discovered," said Denise Holley, the LCA research and communications assistant who helped author the report. Some of those discoveries, she said, include "the high percentage of Latinos in Central Oregon who were born in the USA and the very youthful population that we have here versus the Anglo population in Central Oregon."
LCA Executive Director Brad Porterfield said there was a need to have an accurate collection of available data to help LCA and its community partners understand how Latino families are doing in the region. The report is an attempt to fill that need.
The report is divided into five main categories: population, economics, health, education and housing.
Latinos make up about 9% of the total population in Central Oregon and are a much younger population than the white population with a higher proportion of youth under 18. Jefferson County's Latino population is 19.8%, and births to Latinas represent 25% of all births in the county. Native American women's births make up 25%.
"The youthfulness of our Latino population is a huge asset in terms of supplying prime-working age people to a regional and state economy that currently struggles to fill hundreds of job openings. The youthfulness and higher birth rates predict that Latinos will comprise a growing share of the students enrolled in our schools," the report says.
Three-fourths of Central Oregon Latinos were born in the United States, with the majority tracing their family heritage to Mexico. A number of foreign-born Latinos have become U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. Others remain noncitizens, in large part because current immigration laws do not allow them to adjust their status, the report states.
"Latinos bring a strong work ethic and close family ties to these Central Oregon communities," the report says.
Economically, local Latinos participate in the workforce at higher rates than white residents and contribute to the economic and social well-being of the region. Latino employment as a share of all employment has nearly tripled in the past 25 years, and Latinos are moving into professional and technical jobs at an increasing rate.
However, Latinos earn less, on average, than white residents while Latinos experience higher rates of poverty. Most Central Oregon farmworkers are Latinos, and many do not receive unemployment benefits.
According to the report, Latinos "are a youthful population who fill essential jobs, run businesses, contribute to the local, state and national tax bases, and help shore up the Social Security system."
The report states that Latinos have a slightly longer life expectancy than white residents and a lower mortality rate from cancer than white residents. Fewer Latinos than white residents have health insurance and are more likely to rely on community clinics. Those clinics report the top diagnoses among Latinos as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and asthma.
Latinas have higher pregnancy (and teen pregnancy) rates and birth rates than white women. Latinos also have a lower suicide mortality rate than other groups and have fewer diagnosed cases of mental illness.
The report found that Latino children start kindergarten eager to learn, but many cannot recognize English letters and sounds. Latino third graders lag behind their white classmates in English language arts, and by eighth grade, they score lower on math tests.
Latino students graduate at a lower rate than white students in Bend-La Pine schools, but at slightly higher rates in Jefferson and Crook counties. Fewer Latino adults earn high school diplomas or college degrees than their white peers in Central Oregon.
Housing costs are too high for working Latino families, and home ownership is out of reach for most, the report said. Latinos pay a large portion of their income on rent or mortgage. Nearly 30% of Latinos in Central Oregon spend half their income on housing, which leaves less money for food, medicine, transportation and savings. About 9% of the homeless residents counted in January 2018 were Latinos.
Porterfield said he hopes that making this data available will create more awareness, provide baselines for measuring progress, generate meaningful conversations, and lead to changes in policies, community investment priorities and systems and institutions.
He said their goal is to update the report annually as new census data is released.
"Our priority is to ensure that our Latino families have equitable access to opportunities to advance and fully participate in the civic and cultural life that makes Central Oregon a desirable place to call home," the report says.
Latinos in Central Oregon: A Community Profile in Statistics and Stories
The Latino Community Association report is in digital form at https://latinocommunityassociation.org. LCA will produce a limited number of hard copies and make the executive summary and profiles available in Spanish.
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