Census report shows Hispanics still struggling



WASHINGTON (AP)—Hispanics are three times more likely to live in poverty than non-Hispanic whites, says a government study that details their difficulty climbing the economic ladder.

Twenty-nine percent of the nation’s 22.1 million residents of Hispanic origin live below the poverty line, the Census Bureau said in a report issued Monday. But only 9 percent of the population that statisticians refer to as ‘‘non-Hispanic whites’‘ live in poverty.

Hispanics are disproportionately represented among the nation’s poor, accounting for 18 percent of all citizens living in poverty despite constituting only 9 percent of the country’s total population. The U.S. government considers a family of four under the poverty level if its annual income is $14,350 or less.

The Hispanic share of the nation’s total income also is disproportionately small—only 5 percent of the country’s pay. The study found that of the United States’ $3.6 trillion in before-tax earnings in 1991, Hispanics accounted for $184 billion.

This is the first time the annual census report, based this year mostly on March 1992 data, compares the lifestyle characteristics of Hispanics with those of non-Hispanic whites.

‘‘As we become interested in learning about how the Hispanic-origin population differs from other Americans, presenting contrasts with (the) non-Hispanic white population shows the differences more clearly,’‘ said Jorge del Pinal, one of the study’s authors.

The census study mirrors some findings in a report issued last month by the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest community-based Hispanic organization.

The La Raza study concluded that lack of education has forced more Hispanics than ever into lower-skilled jobs. It also found that as lucrative manufacturing positions disappeared in the last decade, Hispanics moved in greater numbers to low-paying service jobs that provide few or no benefits.

‘‘In the recession of the early ’80s, Hispanics were one of the few groups who didn’t recover, essentially,‘’ said Deirdre Martinez, a poverty policy analyst for La Raza.

She noted that even though Hispanics are disproportionately hit by poverty, a greater percentage of Latino men are employed in the work force than non-Hispanic whites or blacks.

The census study found that 80 percent of Hispanic men were in the labor force, compared to 75 percent for non-Hispanic white men.

‘‘While Hispanics may be working more, they are just not working in the same (level) jobs … or they are working seasonally,’‘ Martinez said.

‘‘They are showing this commitment to the labor force, but they are not getting benefits or they are not getting the benefits received by fulltime workers.’‘

La Raza contends that education is the key to lifting Hispanics out of poverty. The census study found that 53 percent of Hispanics 25 or older have at least a high school diploma, compared to 83 percent of the non-Hispanic white population.

Among the census report’s other findings:

_The median earnings of Hispanic men are about two-thirds of their non-Hispanic white counterparts, $19,769 versus $31,046. The salary discrepancy between women was much smaller, with Hispanic women earning one-fourth less than non-Latino white women, $16,244 to $21,089.

_The unemployment rate in March 1992 for Hispanic men was 12.2 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for non-Latino white men. The jobless rate for Hispanic women was 9.8 percent, versus 5.4 percent for Anglo women.

_Almost half of all Hispanics living in poverty are children under the age of 18. In 1991, Hispanic children represented 21.5 percent of all U.S. children living in poverty yet accounted for only 12 percent of the nation’s child population.

_Fifty-eight percent of Hispanic households in the United States are headed by a person of Mexican origin.