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Latinos Key to Florida’s Growth, What’s Their Economic Picture?

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File photo of Miami skyline Thomas Eisenhuth / Thomas Eisenhuth/picture-allianc/AP

MIAMI, Fla. – One out of 4 Floridians are Latino. The Sunshine State is home to the third largest Hispanic population in the country, and by 2028 the majority of the Florida's population will come from an ethnic or racial minority group. But how are the state's Latinos faring economically?

A new report by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) focuses on the issue. There is good news — Latinos are obtaining college degrees at faster rates, have higher rates of employment than other groups and are opening businesses at a brisk pace.

But there are also sobering numbers. Latino household wealth is vastly lower than that of non-Latino white households, and the poverty rate is nearly double that of whites.

Here are some key findings:

LATINOS IN THE WORKFORCE

Latinos lead in Florida in the percentage of the population in the labor force. A total of 63.9 percent of Latinos are in the workforce compared to 60.6 percent for the overall state population. In 2015, Latino men had the highest employment-to-population ratio among all other racial and ethnic groups in Florida (68.2 percent).

LATINO-OWNED BUSINESSES

Latino businesses are a key source of growth in the Sunshine State. The amount of Hispanic-owned businesses increased by 34 percent between 2007 and 2012. In 2012, there were more than 600,000 Latino-owned businesses generating almost $90 million in gross receipts, a 23 percent jump from 2007.

RELATED: How Wealthy Latinos Are Transforming Miami Housing

COLLEGE DEGREE ATTAINMENT

Latinos are outpacing other groups in the increase in college degrees - the number of Florida Hispanics with a Bachelor degree or higher increased by almost 22 percent between 2010 and 2014, with over 670,000 Latinos now with a bachelor's degree or higher. The rate of increase for Latinos surpassed the rest of Florida, which grew at almost 14 percent.

CHILDREN’S HEALTH COVERAGE

The rate of uninsured Latino children is 12.1 percent, higher than the uninsured rate for all Florida children, which is at 9.3 percent. However, Florida had a significant drop in the amount of uninsured children between 2013 and 2014, which was at 16 percent. Children who have health insurance are more likely to surpass the economic status of their parents, the report notes, making improvements to health care access a key indicator of Hispanic well-being.

HOUSEHOLD INCOME AND POVERTY

The numbers here are sobering: the percentage of Latinos in poverty is at almost 22 percent, nearly double that of non-Latino whites. Between 2007 and 2014, there was a $1,191 decline in the median household income for Latino Floridians, which reflected a concerning trend of an increase in the state's poverty rate. In 2014, the median income in Hispanic households was $40,903 and $50,336 for White households.

LATINAS IN THE WORKFORCE

Latina women earn less than any other major racial group, regardless of gender. Latinas are also less likely to work in high-paying managerial or professional occupations. Latinas earn an average of $28,410 for full-time work, which is 59 cents for every dollar White men earn. Even NCLR says this is of great concern, the report was optimistic in stating that women in Florida are projected to reach parity with men by the year 2038.

LATINO HOUSEHOLD WEALTH

While the gap in annual income between Latinos and whites is about $10 thousand dollars, white households have over 12 times the wealth that Hispanic household do. The median Hispanic household wealth was only $6 thousand in Florida during 2011, but by comparison, median wealth was over $100 thousand dollars for white households.

LATINOS AND BANKING

Around 11 percent of Latino households did not have access to a bank account in 2013, compared to 3 percent of White households. Payday stores are of great concern in the NCLR report. Payday stores offer short-term loans until the next pay day but come associated with heavy fees. In 2005 these lending practices took $2.5 billion in fees from clients, including many Latinos. These stores are concentrated in minority areas where access to mainstream banking services are more limited.

HOMEOWNERSHIP

The rate of Latino homeowners is 49.9 percent, which is below the Florida rate at 64.1 percent. In May 2015, Florida still has the highest foreclosure rate in the U.S., hurting Latino ownership rates especially hard throughout the economic depression following 2008.

ACCESS TO RETIREMENT

Florida is among the states where Hispanics have least access to retirement. Only 31 percent have an employer-provided retirement plan. This reflects the national trend. Part of the reason for this is that Latinos are overrepresented in agriculture, service, construction and small businesses sectors where retirement plan sponsorship rate are lower.

K-12 EDUCATION

In 2015, only 34 percent of Latino 4th graders were reading proficiently compared to 49 percent of Whites. The NCLR report also points to a small decline in mathematics proficiency between 2011 and 2015 (from 13 percent to 11 percent) but proficiency among Hispanic English learners increased slightly, from 12 percent to 14 percent from 2011 to 2015.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

NCLR found in a recent survey that 63 percent of Florida Latinos who are registered voters said their personal finances have remained the same or worsened, and about half said they worried about not having enough money to pay monthly bills.

In the report, NCLR issued several recommendations, including increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 — though this is vigorously opposed by Florida's current governor, Republican Rick Scott. The report also recommends establishing a state-sponsored retirement savings plan and closing the Medicaid coverage gap, among other policies. Currently Florida is one of several states that refused to expand Medicaid as part of Obamacare.

The report highlights the need to close the substantial income and wealth gap between Florida's Latinos and non-Latino whites as Hispanics continue to become a demographic force in the state.

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