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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

December 8, 2015

Literature Review: “Latinos 2025: A Needs Assessment of Latino Communities in Southeast Michigan” by Martinez, Kayitsinga, Horner, and Ortiz (2015).

Submitted by Debra Bolton

This study, carried out by faculty of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University caught my eye, because their findings mirror those found in a recent study of mine completed in 2013 focusing on the health, well-being, and social connectedness of rural populations high in ethnic and cultural diversity (Bolton & Dick, 2013).

I think these are studies that greatly help us to understand the contributions made by our country’s Hispanic/Latino populations whether they are recent immigrants or well-established families. The point is for us to understand our neighbors in terms of what they bring to our communities in terms of cultural, human, social, and financial capitals. We also know that there may be some challenges not only to those who are in the process of acclimating and integrating to new communities, with new languages, with increased educational opportunities, and settling in to a whole new way of life.

There are two reasons why I think this report from Michigan is important. First, the population, in terms of cultural and ethnic diversity is similar to that of Southwest Kansas. The second is that Martinez et al. (2015) findings reflect that of Bolton and Dick’s 2013 findings for Southwest in terms of health, well-being, education, employment, and social connectedness. I think there is much of these data that we can generalize to the populations with whom we work in Southwest Kansas. The areas of focus for the Michigan study: education, economic well-being, health, health behaviors, civic engagement, community well-being, and immigration.

The quantitative data for “Latinos 2025: A Needs Assessment of Latino Communities in Southeast Michigan” by Martinez, Kayitsinga, Horner, and Ortiz (2015) comes from secondary sources such as census data, Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS), population surveys, crime data, and other institutional data collections. The team did collect qualitative data through focus groups.

In the research article, the group found that Latinos in Michigan contribute to the economy through entrepreneurship, agricultural labor, construction, services, and other critical sectors of the economy, and as consumers. That is certainly a reflection of Southwest Kansas where the three population centers are Minority-majority. The comparison was no surprise to me given similar data mined and analyzed in SW Area.

As expected, the Latino population is relatively young and has higher numbers of children, in the Michigan study, as compared to the non-Hispanic White populations, which tends to be older for many reasons. Regarding education, Michigan Latinos tend to have lower educational attainment rates while Asians attained post-secondary degrees at a higher percentage than Michigan’s non-Hispanic White population. That was not the case in SW Area as the young Asian populations that came in the 1980s have left for higher education and have stayed away and took their parents with them. The newer Asian populations, of recent refugee status, still have school-aged children. We will have a better view of that population in five years.

Economically, Latino children in Michigan are living at a poverty percentage (36%) higher than those in SW Area. Wayne County (Michigan), which has the highest Latino population also has the highest poverty rate for children. The Census posts a 16% poverty rate for children in SW Area, but when those data are disaggregated into race/ethnicity, we found that children are living in poverty at rates a bit higher than Michigan’s. In Finney County, for example, 72% of children in the schools are considered as economically disadvantaged, and 69.5% of the student population is Hispanic. It’s hard to get a true picture of dropout rates, since Kansas measures, only, who enters and exits the senior year of high school. In both Michigan and Kansas, Latino youth tend to enter the workforce at the age of 16, which is a higher rate than their non-Hispanic White counterparts.

The rest of the research report covers health, food insecurities, civic engagement (one of my favorite topics), community well-being and immigration. There is a list of recommendations that the research team has made in its report. It promoted the importance of offering essential information in languages other than English. Begin working with parents of young children to engage in education and help them to visualize the concept of higher education. (Remember, anyone living in poverty is surviving and living in the moment. Educational attainment is a dream that may not be on the family “radar”.). Other recommendations include after-school academic supports, adult education, and bilingual/bicultural instruction with integrated educational plans, vocational counseling, and academic/career mentorships. The best recommendations from the research group (Martinez, et al) regarded immigration. While it’s a highly politicized issue, these suggestions focused away from politics emphasized human dignity for families around health, employment, safety, and education. If you are interested in learning more about it, the report can be found on the Julien Samora Research Institutes web page: www.jsri.msu.edu.

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