CHICAGO – Young Hispanics in Chicago are destined for the same kind of low-paying jobs held by their immigrant parents without an improvement in the quality of education, a new study from DePaul University says.
Looking at 2010 Census data, the report concludes that half of the - overwhelmingly Mexican - Hispanic workforce in the six counties of the metropolitan area are employed in food service, construction and manufacturing jobs.
Forty percent of the U.S.-born children of Mexican immigrants find themselves in similar positions, according to the research, which was carried out by DePaul as part of the New Journalism on Latino Children project.
Only 1 percent of Mexican-Americans in the Chicago area are work in fields such as science, technology and engineering.
Latinos accounted for three of every five new workers in the metro area between 2000 and 2010, the study found. And while the vast majority of those workers are U.S. citizens, they stand "at or near the bottom of Chicago's education and wage hierarchies."
Among the city's working Hispanic men, those born in Mexico earn a median annual income of $28,000, compared with $47,000 for U.S.-born Mexicans, and non-Latino white males make $65,000 a year.
U.S.-born women of Mexican origin, who are more likely than their male counterparts to finish high school and attend college, tend to have higher incomes than the men.
Latinos make up 22 percent of metro Chicago's population and more than a fifth of the area's U.S.-born Hispanics are between the ages of 5 and 20.
"These kids need special attention," the report's author, DePaul senior research fellow John Koval, said.
"They're coming from communities where going on to college, even graduating from high school, is not commonplace. We're not talking about social justice, social work. We're talking about a pragmatic need in our country. These kids need to be educated and well-trained because this economy needs them so badly," he said.
Latinos and other groups begin to diverge at an early age, according to the study, which notes that only a third of Hispanic children attend pre-school, though two-thirds of non-Latino kids do.
Chicago's Hispanics have a high school graduation rate of 59 percent, compared with 64 percent for whites and 80 percent among people of Asian origin.
Koval cautioned that education "is a small portion of what needs to be done."
"We're talking about kids who are growing up in communities that are already marginalized ... We have to go into the communities and - this is the really difficult task - change the culture of communities," he said.