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Latino Outlook: Puerto Ricans Fare Worse Than Other Groups

Puerto Rican males are the most disadvantaged group of youths in New York City, according to a report released today by an antipoverty group, Community Service Society. Census data for youths ages 16-24 show that Puerto Rican males have the lowest rates of school enrollment, educational attainment, and employment than any other comparable group, including young black males, the report says. Puerto Rican young women also have more challenges in these areas than other female youths.

The report, "New York City's Future Looks Latino," examines the success of Latinos in New York City, who comprise the largest share of the population in the city under the age of 25.

Ninety percent of Puerto Ricans in the Big Apple were born on the mainland of the United States. Even those born on the island of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens so they don't face some of the challenges that many Latinos do because of their immigration status. Yet Puerto Ricans are doing worse than Mexicans and Dominicans, the report found. Only 55 percent of Puerto Ricans ages 16-24 born on the mainland or the island are enrolled in school, compared with 66.8 percent of of U.S.-born Mexicans and 68.2 percent of U.S.-born Dominicans. See The New York Times' story, "Report Shows Plight of Puerto Rican Youth," about the report.

The study says that since Latino youths are primarily English-speaking, school-based English-language-learner programs shouldn't be the predominant policy concern for Latinos.

The report suggests that one reason that Puerto Ricans are not faring well in school and work is because they face greater poverty than other Latino groups. It suggests that further analysis should look at where Puerto Ricans live and examine how the quality of institutions, such as schools, and support services affect their prospects.

A 2008 book, Inheriting the City, that compares the children of immigrants in New York City and I've blogged about provides some insight into why Puerto Ricans don't fare as well educationally and economically as some other Latino or immigrant groups. The book contends that schools serve as a sorting mechanism for success or lack of success. Puerto Ricans, the book says, tend more than other immigrant and Latino groups to live in public housing, and consequently get "trapped" in low-income neighborhoods with low-performing schools.

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