Why do drop out rates remain highest among Hispanics?

By Andy Garcia

There is a discrepancy in what Hispanics say and what they actually end up doing. For example, more than half of all Hispanics said they consider themselves to be “somewhat or very conservative.” However, we now know that 70% voted for a liberal candidate in the 2012 election. But today, I don’t want to talk about politics; instead I want to talk about education.

Yesterday, the Pew Hispanic Center released a survey that was conducted over the last month, which found that nine in ten Hispanics indicated that education is extremely important. These numbers represent 89% of all of respondents. Opinions have always been a good indicator for predicting behavior. However, in this case it is better not to rush to conclusions since census data indicates that the dropout rate among Hispanics remains extremely high at 15.9%.

While there seems to be a consensus about the importance of pursuing higher education, the actual amount of Hispanics who plan to attend college is less than one in three. The survey also asked Hispanics why they would choose to not pursue higher education and many of the answers were related to social and economic issues affecting them. More than 61% indicated that their parents, although wanting them to go to school, did not help them to succeed. The reason why: a lack of English proficiency and a cultural gap – one that divides parents from children.

Hispanics represent the dominant immigrant group arriving to America every year. Historically, immigrants are expected to take menial jobs that give them the flexibility to send money back to their relatives in their home countries. Immigrant families may be the only hope left for their relatives; therefore, they prefer to take a job and earn some money rather than investing significant time and resources in education. About 24% of all Hispanic immigrants who come to America are between the ages of 25 and 35 and they bring a family with them.

Drop out rates have declined in relative numbers since 1990, when the census registered a drop out rate of 32.11% for Hispanics. However, Hispanics still remain the group with the highest drop out rate, and these numbers can easily be translated to unemployment figures and average income earned. Education opens the door to a better life and Hispanics seem to be aware of that. What remain unaddressed are the social and cultural problems affecting this population that are keeping them from accessing higher education.

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