November 17, 2000
Professor Warns Rising
Hispanic Poverty a 'Time Bomb'
These may be economic boom times for most of
California's population, but Southern California's Hispanic
population is falling further behind and is in danger of
becoming an "immense impoverished underclass," says California
State University, Sacramento professor of business statistics
The numbers, he says, show an "impending
economic and social disaster for the greater Los Angeles
Mogull's findings will be published in two forthcoming articles in the Journal of Business and Economic Perspectives and in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare.
Mogull predicts that
state and local policymakers in California face a daunting
challenge. His studies describe poverty trends in the combined
Los Angeles/Long Beach metropolitan area, and, while they
provide a perspective on trends, Mogull says frankly that he
doesn't see easy solutions.
Mogull bases his
predictions on trends since 1959, using decennial census data
and his own annual projections. The numbers show the poverty
rate among greater Los Angeles area Hispanics growing from 8.8
percent in 1959 to about 23 percent throughout the
Meanwhile, the Hispanic population has exploded.
It has grown from 15 percent of the Los Angeles County
population in 1970 to a projected 46 percent (4,483,000) in
2000. The California Department of Finance predicts that it
will reach 51 percent in 2010 and 64 percent by
Mogull predicts the Hispanic poverty rate will
remain at around 23 percent. The long-term result, he says, is
that the Los Angeles area will see growing overall poverty for
the foreseeable future, driven by the rapidly growing number
of Hispanics and their children. Any downturn in the economy
will further intensify the problem.
The trend is so
strong, Mogull says, that even the rise in economic standing
often seen among American immigrant groups would take many
decades to help, at best.
"Politically and socially, I
think we're sitting on a time bomb," Mogull says. "And
unfortunately, I think it's inevitable."
level for a family of three was an annual income of $13,290 in
1999, the latest year for which data are available. For a
family of four it was $17,029 and for a family of five it was
For other groups in Los Angeles - the elderly,
female-headed families, African Americans and whites - poverty
has been decreasing or has remained relatively steady since
1959. The elderly poverty rate is 16 percent, down from 26.3
percent in 1959; the female-headed families rate is 25.7
percent, down from 31.5 percent in 1959; the African American
rate is 21.8 percent, down from 28 percent in 1959; the white
rate is 13.8 percent, up from 11.2 percent in
Perhaps the one silver lining for the Hispanic
population, Mogull says, is that their rate of poverty is no
longer rising. Roughly the same proportion of Hispanics live
in poverty today as in 1990.
But because of their
growing numbers, the Hispanic poverty rate has forced the
overall poverty rate in Los Angeles to jump from 15.7 to 20.6
percent in just 10 years - and that was during a long period
of economic expansion.
Mogull says there are several
reasons likely for the persistent high poverty among
Hispanics. They include increases in legal and illegal
immigration, greater competition for entry-level jobs,
comparatively low-level work skills, a static job market for
low-skilled labor, a language barrier and a tendency to have
more children than other ethnic groups.
The two forthcoming studies
utilize a statistical method of predicting poverty that Mogull
has developed over the last decade, beginning with an effort
to predict statewide poverty.
The method is meant to
provide policymakers with accurate, annual poverty estimates,
both for the state and for urban areas. Since 1960, the Census
Bureau has provided highly accurate poverty data every 10 years, as well as annual poverty data that is much less accurate and often swings wildly from year to year.
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