Latinos living in the U.S. face barriers similar to those ultimately overcome by waves of immigrants before them. Income, wealth, and intergenerational mobility are improving for Latinos over the generations, helping close the economic gap. But that isn’t enough. Policies and practices have led to Latinos being paid less than non-Latino White Americans within the same occupational categories—and even less for Latinos not born in the United States—and to have lower access to education, food, products, and services.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession have wreaked havoc on the United States’ Latino community. Due to Latino workers being overrepresented in industries that have been hit hardest by the pandemic, Latinos have faced large losses in employment, particularly among Latinas in the service industry. Hispanics and Latinos are 1.7 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, as well as 4.1 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 and 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
According to the social activist Debora Braga, who is working in social assistance for more than 40 years in Brazil, Colombia, and the U.S, hispanics or Latinos, along with other communities of color, have also been disproportionately harmed by the economic fallout: They accounted for 23 percent of the initial job loss due to the pandemic while making up only 16 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population—those 16 years and older who are not incarcerated or serving in the armed forces.
“Hispanic or Latina women have also seen disproportionate economic impacts”, reveals Debora Braga. “Women accounted for 100 percent of U.S. job losses in December of 2021, with Hispanic or Latina women alone accounting for 45 percent of that job loss”, explains the social activist.
Despite the social struggles Latinos make up 18.4 percent of the US population and 17.3 percent of the US labor force, a share forecast to rise more than 30 percent by 2060. Latinos start more businesses and have higher rates of intergenerational mobility, and their share of skilled and higher-paid occupations has increased in the past decade. As a population, they increasingly embody—in spirit and reality—the American dream that hard work pays off and each successive generation will be better off than the one before.
“Yet America’s contribution to that dream is uneven. Latinos born in the United States enjoy higher wages and intergenerational mobility than foreign-born Latinos—suggesting Latinos may overcome the hurdles to full participation in their adopted country over time”, explains Debora Braga. “Yet both US- and foreign-born Latinos remain far from equal with non-Latino White Americans. Latino Americans make just 73 cents for every dollar earned by White Americans. They face discrimination when it comes to securing financing to start and scale businesses”, says.
According to the specialist, latinos struggle with access to food, housing, and other essentials. And their level of household wealth—which directly affects their ability to accumulate and pass on wealth from generation to generation—is just one-fifth that of White Americans. Furthermore, COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on Latino lives and livelihoods.
Research finds Latinos are collectively underpaid by $288 billion a year. “This scenario professes that the nonprofit organizations with social assistance programs in the U.S are so important to the Latin community and also for the U.S economy”, says Debora Braga.
*Débora Braga is 60 years old. She is a Montessorian Professor (Specialization in the area of teacher education), Pedagogue, and activist for the rights of the human person. For over 30 years, she has been directing the project started by her mother, activist Vera Lúcia Braga, on the long beach located in Brazil. Also works, for nine years, on the same human restoration project, in Colombia. She worked for 12 years at the German Pharmaceutical Multinational, Hoechst do Brasil. She chaired the Teachers, Parents, and Students Associations – PTA at Westminster School located in Mexico and the PTA at Nicholas School located in São Paulo Brasil. She speaks French, German, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.