Little in the nation’s annual tabulation of disadvantage released by the Census Bureau last week can be described as encouraging. But, there was one sliver of good news for a population very hard hit by the Great Recession.
Latinos were the only ethnic or racial group in the United States that saw the share of people living in poverty decline. Latino poverty slid to 25.3 percent in 2011 from 26.5 percent in 2010. The difference, while statistically slight, means that 278,000 fewer Latinos were living in poverty in 2011 than in the prior year.
But nearly all of that progress was concentrated in one group, childless Latino adults, according to a National Council of La Raza analysis. Of the 13 million Hispanics living in poverty, 6 million or 46 percent of these people were under the age of 18.
"We have more work to do to reduce poverty in the Latino community, especially among children and families,” said Leticia Miranda, Senior Policy Advisor at NCLR said in a statement.
The mixed picture of Latino economic well being complicates not just the lives of ordinary families but the pursuit of Latino voters by an incumbent President and his Republican challenger. Both campaigns have openly courted Latino voters this year as Latinos make up the nation's largest minority group and the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.
One of the primary reasons so many adults escaped poverty in 2012: a modest decline in Latino unemployment. The annual average Latino unemployment rate in 2011 fell to a disturbingly elevated 11.5 percent from an alarmingly high 13.1 percent in 2010. The share of Latinos looking for work but unable to find it has remained well above the overall unemployment rate this year.
But shrinking the ranks of the Latino jobless did not translate to income gains. In fact, Latino median household income remained below $40,000 at 38,624 in 2011, down from $38,818 one year earlier. The figures highlight the net result of an economic recovery that has produced far fewer medium and high-wage jobs than those offering modest to low pay, a National Employment Law Project analysis found.
Still, Latinos managed to register the smallest income drop of any racial or ethnic group.
In 2010, Latinos experienced the second sharpest increase in poverty of any ethnic or racial group in the country. Only more black Americans slid into poverty than Latinos. The twin culprits: job losses and the foreclosure crisis continued to rob families of color of income and what is most often an American family’s chief asset, their homes. The median Latino household income fell slightly and household wealth –- the vaule of assets and savings after accounting for debt –- dropped by what The Minnesota Post called a “whopping” 66 percent.
Latinos suffered larger declines in household wealth -- the resources that often help a family weather a job loss or other crises -- than any of the nation's racial or ethnic groups, The New York Times reported.
In 2011, the federal government considered a single individual living on less than $10,890 poor and classified families of three living on less than $18,530 the same way.
Federal poverty measures include before tax income but do not measure wealth such as the value of a home or other property or the value of non cash public benefits such as food stamps or tax credits, Fox News Latino reported.
The census bureau will release a second measure of economic well being that accounts for pre-tax income, tax credits and rebates as well as expenses associated with work such as childcare and transportation and basic necessities such as food and shelter in November.