Economy

Movin’ On Up?

Sometimes you take good news where you can.

So here’s your positive tidbit for the day: The nation’s poverty rate dropped significantly last year for the first time since 2006.

celebrate

Yes, well, hip-hip hooray and all that.

The overall rate dipped from 15% to 14.5% (still pretty damn high).

That rate was pushed down primarily thanks to the efforts of Hispanics, who showed the most improvement. The rate for Latinos fell from 25.6% to 23.5%.

So instead of “over one-quarter of Hispanics live in poverty,” we can now say, “just under one-quarter of Hispanics live in poverty.”

Hey, I warned you that the good news was limited.

Among the reasons for the decline in Latinos’ poverty rate are the improved job market and the fact that more U.S.-born Latinos are entering the workforce. And remember that U.S.-born Latinos “tend to have more education [and] tend to be English-speaking,” which often leads to higher earnings.

Latinos were the only ethnic group to see a noticeable change in their poverty rate last year, but even with that, the percentage of destitute Hispanics is still substantially higher than it is for whites or Asians.

And while Latinos make up 17% of the American population, they constitute 28.1% of poor people.

Do you still feel like celebrating?

 


Faith or Delusion?

I’ve written before that Latinos tend to be more optimistic about life and have more confidence in their economic futures.

thumbsup

Well, a new survey confirms that Hispanics’ “faith in the American Dream exceeds that of whites and African Americans,” adding that this optimism “contrasts sharply with the current economic status of Hispanics.”

Basically, even though the Great Recession hit Latinos harder than most groups, it is those same Hispanics who have the strongest belief that everything will work out fine. According to the survey’s authors, “the upbeat attitude … is due in part to the fact that Hispanic immigrants often start with little and expect to sacrifice much to move up, while native-born adults may have already seen their expectations lose ground in an ailing economy.”

So whites and blacks, whose roots in America are more likely to go back generations, tend to say, “This sucks worse than ever.” But Latinos often shrug off the same bad news with “I’ve seen worse.”

Still, as great as it is that Latinos are remaining optimistic and staying strong, “the reality for most Hispanics is less rosy” than their faith implies.

So the question becomes, is this determined mindset a self-fulfilling prophecy, where hard work and a never-say-die spirit is rewarded? Or are Latinos just saps for still believing “they are more likely to move up than down in social class over the next few years”?

In any case, the survey points out that “the hopes and struggles of Hispanics are of particular interest now as they are exercising unprecedented political clout.”

Yes, it’s good to have faith. But it’s better to have power.

 


No Relaxing Allowed

As I’ve written before, we Hispanics are known for our fierce work ethic.

Think of immigrants slaving away at grueling tasks that native-born Americans refuse to do. Or consider that last year, “the number of Latino entrepreneurs grew more than white, black, and Asian entrepreneurs.”

Yes, we sure like to work. It’s unfortunate, then, that so many Hispanics who reach old age have nothing to show for it. This is because “fewer than half of … Latino workers have retirement plans on the job, leaving the vast majority of them with no savings designated for their golden years.”

hammock

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Move Over

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in an LA neighborhood that features both apartment buildings with working-class residents and million-dollar mansions. Again, I am much closer to one end of that scale than the other (I will let you guess which).

In any case, the mixed character of my neighborhood may be doomed. According to one study, “the percentage of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods dropped to 42 percent in 2009 from 65 percent in 1970.” Basically, more people are packing up and moving to one end of the spectrum (i.e., very wealthy or very poor), and “the growing physical separation of the rich and poor is hastening the decline of middle-class neighborhoods and could make income inequality even worse.”

moving co

In essence, this is the new segregation, but along class lines rather than strict ethnic boundaries. Of course, those two concepts are strongly linked, so it’s really just racial segregation again, but not as overt and with a twenty-first-century twist.

But keep in mind that “the growing divide has been especially striking in the country’s black and Hispanic communities, where the rich and poor of each racial group are dividing from one another at a pace far quicker than in the white community.”

I suppose this means that I have to start packing.

 


Stranglehold

I’ve written before about the asphyxiating grasp that rich people have on the American Dream. As we know, the concept of social mobility is, at best, a faded myth that may never be relevant again. At worst, it is delusional pabulum served up to the masses to prevent them from revolting.

torch-and-pitchfork

 

But just in case you thought you could get ahead by sheer hard work and a can-do attitude, consider the following fact: According to one study, your degree of social mobility depends to a large degree upon where you live.

So for those of you who are poor in, say, Georgia, the odds are pretty good that your children are not going to swing the middle-class lifestyle. But don’t worry, “the chances that affluent children grow up to be affluent are broadly similar across metropolitan areas.” So again, the rich are going to be ok.

But wait — isn’t education the great equalizer? Well, nabbing a college degree is indeed one of the best ways to increase your income. Unfortunately, many kids are being priced out by tuitions that can only be called obscene. Again, however, you don’t have to fret over the wealthy. Because “college students have a better chance of getting financial aid if they come from affluent backgrounds than if they are lower on the income scale.” Yes, once again, the wealthy get a break denied to others, even if — as in this case — they don’t need it nearly as much as people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.

Of course, Hispanic kids are less likely to be rich in the first place. And thanks to backward cultural priorities, the odds are good that their children and grandchildren won’t be financially secure either.

Well, at least it won’t be awkward at Thanksgiving dinner, because we won’t have to endure about those rich relatives flaunting their wealth. Because everybody will be broke.

 


Mind the Gap

Here’s a cheery statistic that you may have missed: The wealthiest 1 percent now control 39 percent of the world’s wealth, and their share is likely to grow in the coming years.

greed

What this means is that while you were digging out from the Great Recession — or are still digging out — multimillionaires coasted through just fine. And the gap between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us is the widest it has been in about a half century.

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What? Me, Worry?

A year ago, I wrote about how the Great Recession hit Latinos hard. At the time, I was hopeful that the worst was behind us. Perhaps that was my natural Hispanic tendency to be optimistic.

After all, Latinos “are worse off, but they are still more positive about where the country is going” compared to most Americans. In particular, “Latino small-business owners are among the fastest growing and most upbeat [groups] in the nation,” and they “worry less about job security and are more positive and humble.”

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Getting Down to Business

So the Baby Boomers, as they are wont to do, are ready to take the money and run. Apparently, many older entrepreneurs will soon sell off their business and retire.

Well, we shouldn’t worry. After all, entrepreneurialism is a cornerstone of the fabled American Dream, and small businesses drive the economy. So I’m sure some young, smart, hardworking go-getters will keep the new ideas coming…unless of course, we’ve decimated educationpromoted ignorance, and ravaged the social safety net to the point that we are unleashing a generation ill-equipped to tap into their own creativity.

OK, now I’m worried.

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Show Them the Money

I used to write for a website whose target audience was upscale Hispanic men. My job was to find the hippest, most happenin’, muy caliente places and products.

Of course, I soon grew weary of writing for guys who think $5,000 stereo speakers are their god-given right. But I also got tired of explaining the gig to people who asked, “Just how many rich Latino guys can there be?”

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Party On

Due to unusual circumstances that I won’t even get into, I found myself at a ritzy event, surrounded by wealthy individuals. I happened to be standing near the door, and I saw members of the one percent walk in.

For the most part, they were polite and just like you and me. However, the exceptions were numerous enough to notice.

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