I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, just a few hours from the U.S.-Mexico border. My family has lived there for nine generations, under multiple flags. As a Mexican-American growing up in a city with a large, established Hispanic community, my hybrid identity was not unique; many friends and classmates experienced a similar cultural mix. Growing up in this vibrant community left me with a strong desire to give back to them in the same way that they gave to me.
My childhood foreshadowed the direction we are moving as a nation. It is no secret that the U.S. Latino population is expanding -- we currently number more than 50 million and will account for 60% of the nation's population growth through 2050. Throughout our country, Latinos live in and contribute to, an increasingly diverse America. And for women especially, balancing the demands of intertwined cultures can be challenging.
In recognition of this, I am creating the Eva Longoria Foundation. Our mission is to help Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship. We will support programs which help Latinas become college ready and college graduates. And we will provide Latinas with career training, mentorship, capital and opportunity.
Unfortunately, my upbringing differed from those of many Latinas today in a few significant ways. I received a solid high school education, graduated from college and, before becoming an actress, lived comfortably working a professional job. This path to economic security is currently unattainable for many Latinas.
As a group, Latinas are disproportionately impoverished and uneducated. 27% live below the poverty line, struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. On average, women make $0.77 for every dollar a white man makes. For Latinas, the disparity is even more severe -- they make only $0.54 on the dollar.
While many factors contribute to poverty, education plays a key role in a person's ability to secure a good job. Today, only 65% of adult Latinas hold high school degrees and just 15% graduate from college. Without secondary or higher education, these women have few opportunities to secure jobs that provide a living wage. Growing up in low-income neighborhoods and attending failing schools, their daughters often find themselves trapped in the same situation, a cycle of poverty that can continue for generations.
Though examining this status quo can sound depressing, a closer look offers great hope for a brighter future. Facing a challenging job market, Latinas are incredibly entrepreneurial, starting businesses at six times the national rate. They respond to economic adversity with determination, hard work and creativity. Just imagine what these women could do with resources at their disposal.
As it stands, Latinas are a powerful and relatively untapped resource for this country. Maya Angelou once said, "There is a world of difference between truth and facts; Facts can obscure the truth". I can't help but think how accurate this is related to Latinas. Today's facts about them are discouraging. If you looked only at the statistics, you might not realize that Latinas exemplify the positive attributes that built this great country. The truth is that by investing in and helping this vibrant group realize their potential, we will build a stronger America for all of us.
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