When I arrived to work at East Carolina University in 2008, I heard many negative comments about Latinos because although they represented only 6 percent of the state population at the time, they were the fastest growing group in the country and that alarmed many. The negative utterances that continue in North Carolina and in the country centers around the notion that the Latino community is an economic burden that needs to be diminished.
As the pejorative talk and other severe challenges were carried on into the 21st Century, the Latino community, especially its young adults, were already working not only to change the narrative but to take leadership in at least three all-important areas of American life: politics, education and the economy. The 2000 presidential election of President Bush formed part of the new effort to change the narrative as it was fueled in part by an almost 40 percent Latino vote turned out in his favor.
Latino increased their vote for Bush in the 2004 reelection to 44 percent and followed that with votes that made a major difference in the election and reelection of President Obama. The failure of Hilary Clinton to achieve the presidency was not for lack of Latino support as they came through with sufficient votes to make the difference under normal circumstances.
Beginning at the turn of the century, Latinos also began to change the dynamics of their relationship to education by cutting what used to be a chronically high dropout rate in half and continued to bring it down to a level that is now comparable to the rest of the country. Latinos have also increased their numbers in college admissions to the point that they are now first in the country ahead by two percentage points over their White counterparts.
On the economic front, the “Latino Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report: Quantifying the Impact of American Hispanic Economic Growth” (June, 2017) report authored by Werner Schink and David Hayes-Bautista found that: “The common perception of Latinos being a burden to U.S. society is utterly wrong. To the contrary, Latinos are the element most needed to fuel the growth of this country. All Americans have benefited from the $2.13 trillion contribution the Latino GDP makes to the country, and should take steps to make sure it continues.”
The 2.13 trillion dollar Latino GDP in 2015 constitutes the 7th largest economy in the world, larger than the GDP of India, Italy, Brazil and Canada and only behind the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, UK and France. Of the ten top economies in the world, the Latino GDP is the third-fastest in growth.
Latinos have also taken 100 percent and more of the slack caused by Boomer retirements and account “for 70 percent of the U.S. workforce’s increase in the first half of this decade.” That means that Boomer Social Security costs are being picked mostly by Latinos who make up 7 out of every 10 new workers.
That is not all, the trend that sees Latinos pick up the slack for retirees has also led to forecasts that “the Latino GDP will account for an increasing portion of the total U.S. GDP growth, projected to be 24.4 percent of total U.S. GDP growth by 2020.” That means that in three years Latinos will account for 1 out of every 4 new dollars created by the American economy.
Those numbers tell a very different story from what is out there. What is out there is more than a slap on the hand that feeds you.