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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

November 17, 2005

Study by Sacramento State professor shows
differences in poverty rates for Hispanics

While poverty rates for Hispanic Americans overall far exceed the national rate, a new study by a Sacramento State professor shows that there are significant differences among ethnicities within the Hispanic American community.

Since 1980, the poverty rate for Cuban Americans has been roughly comparable to that of non-Hispanic Americans, about 14.6 percent. But poverty rates for Mexican Americans and for Puerto Rican Americans have been almost twice as high.

The study by Robert Mogull, professor of business statistics at Sacramento State, was published recently in The Journal of Applied Business Research.

Mogull said that his analysis of Census figures found surprising differences in poverty rates among the ethnic groups, showing that the Hispanic American community is not a homogenous economic population and experiences different patterns of poverty.

Mogull’s analysis found:

  • For Mexican Americans, the poverty rate stood at 23.3 percent in 1980, rose to 26.3 percent in 1990 then fell to 23.5 percent in 2000. As the number of the Mexican Americans in the country increased from 8.7 million in 1980 to 20.6 million in 2000, the Mexican American share of overall Hispanic American poverty grew from 59 percent in 1980 to 61.7 percent in 2000.
  • For Puerto Rican Americans, the poverty rate was 36.3 percent in 1980, dropped to 31.7 percent in 1990 and fell to 25.8 percent in 2000. The Puerto Rican American population stood at 2 million in 1980 and rose to 3.4 million in 2000. As a proportion of all poor Hispanic Americans, their share dropped by almost half from 21.1 percent in 1980 to 10.9 percent in 2000.
  • For Cuban Americans, the poverty rate stood at 13.2 percent in 1980 and remained at 14.6 percent in both 1990 and 2000. The number of Cuban Americans in the country grew from 803,000 in 1980 to 1.2 million in 2000. But as a proportion of all impoverished Hispanic Americans, Cuban Americans have seen their share decline from 3.1 percent in 1980 to 2.3 percent in 2000.
  • For other ethnic Hispanic Americans — defined as those from Spain, the Dominican Republic and Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America — the poverty rate was 18.6 percent in 1980 and grew to 19.5 percent for both 1990 and 2000. The number of other ethnic Hispanic Americans increased from 3 million in 1980 to 10 million in 2000, while their share of total Hispanic American poverty expanded from 16.9 percent in 1980 to 18.4 percent in 1990 and to 25 percent in 2000.

Mogull’s findings are significant because of the rapid growth of the Hispanic American community in the United States. The Census Bureau estimates that the Hispanic American population rose to 41.3 million people and 14 percent of the nation’s total population last year.

While the number of all Americans living in poverty increased by 24.6 percent between 1970 and 2000, the number of Hispanic Americans in poverty leaped by a striking 262 percent during the same period. In 1970, nearly eight percent of all poor Americans were Hispanic. Thirty years later, however, that share had jumped to nearly one of every four impoverished Americans. In 2004, a family of four earning $19,484 a year or less was in poverty.

Mogull, who has tracked trends in Hispanic poverty over the years, said that the poverty rate for Hispanic Americans remains high as a result of several factors. “Many Hispanics are recent immigrants with accompanying problems of language, low education and a lack of technical skills. Their low income is further exasperated by large families,” said Mogull. “There is a need for an extensive variety of social services to combat poverty among Hispanic Americans as well as among all impoverished Americans.”

However, Mogull reported that even though there are more people living in poverty because of growth in the population as a whole, the percentage of people living in poverty has been declining in recent years. For all Americans, the poverty rate dropped by 5.3 percent, from 13.1 percent in 1990 to 12.4 percent in 2000. For Hispanic Americans, the poverty rate has been fallen by 10.7 percent since 1990 when it reached a high of 25.3 percent

What’s ahead? “As the Hispanic population rises, the impoverished Hispanic population will also rise, but not as steeply,” Mogull predicted. “The overall Hispanic poverty rate appears to be declining. Since about 60 percent of Hispanic Americans are of Mexican origin, overall trends for Hispanic Americans trends will follow closely the trends of Mexican Americans in particular.”

Additional media assistance is available from the Sacramento State public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •


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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •