Despite representing nearly half of Long Beach’s population and serving as major contributors to the local economy, residents who identify as Latino face various socioeconomic achievement gaps compared to other ethnicities in the city, according to a recent economic report.
During the Long Beach Latino Economic Summit on Friday, October 18, the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Department of Economics, Centro CHA – a nonprofit social service agency for Hispanics and Latinos – and the City of Long Beach presented the second iteration of the Long Beach Latino Economic Report. The updated report, which was presented at CSULB, illustrates how the local Latino population compares to other ethnicities in key areas such as employment, income and education. The first report was introduced last year at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center.
In attendance at this year’s summit were State Sen. Lena Gonzalez, Herlinda Chico of Los Angeles County 4th District Supervisor Janice Hahn’s office, Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees President Vivian Malauulu and other elected officials. Partners who helped develop the report were also present, including representatives from Centro CHA, the Port of Long Beach, the Long Beach Economic Development Department and others.
The report illustrates that achievement gaps exist between the Latino population and other ethnicities in Long Beach, said Seiji Steimetz, professor and chair of CSULB’s Office of Economic Research. He presented the report’s findings alongside Centro CHA’s Megan Anaya, who is a research intern at the nonprofit.
In sharing these findings with the community, the hope is to stimulate conversation between the general public and policymakers to help address disparities, Steimetz told the Business Journal. “That ongoing conversation can then be a guidepost for what policy areas need to be addressed,” he said. “When the general public participates at that summit, [what they say] is guaranteed to be heard [by] policymakers in the city.”
The report relies upon various data sources, including the most recent information from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and the ACS Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). The ACS is an annual nationwide survey that collects data about jobs and occupations, education, rental housing and more. The PUMS focuses on information about individual people and housing units. It is publicly available for a variety of uses, such as for independent research.
Inaccessibility to digital resources, higher education, housing and health care are among the biggest challenges faced by Latinos in Long Beach, according to the Long Beach Latino Economic Report.
As of 2017, there were 202,761 Latinos living in Long Beach, encompassing 43.2% of the city’s population, the report shows. The Latino population grew steadily in Long Beach over the prior five years, although there was a dip of 3.1% in 2017. The overall U.S. citizenship rate for Latinos in Long Beach is 80%, and 33.4% of the Latino population is foreign-born.
Steimetz referred to Latinos as “an underserved minority population” as well as a “dominant force in the city,” noting that the Latino community is an important part of Long Beach’s economic engine.
Employment data from the report shows that the Long Beach Latino population leads other ethnicities in labor force participation. According to the report, 102,209 Long Beach Latinos participate in the civilian labor force, which represents 41.4% of all working residents in the city. Labor force participation among Long Beach Latinos is 70%, compared to 63% among all other Long Beach working-age residents.
More Long Beach Latinos are employed in manufacturing and industrial related job fields than those who have careers in management or business. Anaya presented that 19% of the city’s Latino population works in the production, transportation and material moving sectors, compared to 9% of other Long Beach residents. In contrast, 23% of employed Latinos work in the management, business, science and arts sectors, compared to 48% of all other residents.
Employed Long Beach Latinos have an economic impact of $34.3 billion, which represents 38.1% of Long Beach’s total economic impact in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to the report. Of those working Latinos, 46,000 are immigrants. The Long Beach Latino immigrant population generates an annual economic impact of $13.7 billion.
Latino households contribute 36% of all federal, state and local tax revenues generated by Long Beach households, according to the report.
Anaya said that Latino renters spend 43.8% of their income on housing, compared to 40.1% for all other ethnicities. A larger share of Long Beach Latinos, 67.1%, are renters. Comparatively, 55.7% of all other ethnicities combined are renters.
The socioeconomic gaps between local Latinos and other groups become more apparent when household and family incomes come into play, Anaya said. According to the U.S. Census, a family consists of two or more people all related by birth, marriage or adoption residing in the same housing unit. A household, on the other hand, consists of all people who are in a home, regardless of their relationships to one another. A household may consist of a person living alone or multiple unrelated individuals or families living together, according to the U.S. Census.
The median household income for Long Beach Latinos is $51,646, which is 14.7% lower than the city’s overall median household income of $60,557, Anaya said. The median family income among Long Beach Latinos is $52,200, compared to $80,000 among all other Long Beach families – a 34.8% family income gap.
Jessica Quintana, executive director of Centro CHA, told the Business Journal that these figures confirm that Latinos are economically lagging behind other ethnicities in the city. “It’s so important we educate our community constituents, our leaders, our residents on this data,” she said. Quintana believes this disparity exists because there’s a lack of opportunities for the Latino population. “If they don’t have access to good paying jobs, that’s just really going to tell the future of how well these families and their children are going to do economically in this city.”
The report indicates that 6,865 Long Beach Latino families live in poverty. Anaya said this figure represents 16.4% of all Long Beach Latino families, compared to 9.8% of all other ethnic families in the city.
When it comes to health insurance coverage, 23,289 of Long Beach Latinos are uninsured. Roughly 16.3% of Long Beach Latinos between the ages of 18 and 64 are uninsured, compared to 5.6% of all other Long Beach residents in that age group. However, the report indicated that the number of Long Beach Latinos who are uninsured has declined by 17.3 percentage points in the past five years.
The disparities in income could perhaps be attributed to the education level of local Latinos, Steimetz said. Out of all Long Beach Latinos over the age of 25, 11% have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 26% of other ethnicities in the city, the report shows. About 38% of Long Beach Latinos have less than a high school education, compared to 10% of all other ethnicities, according to the report.
Steimetz said that 43,000 of Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) students identify as Latino, which accounts for 56% of the district’s student population. He said the silver lining is that the LBUSD Latino high school graduation rate has increased by 5 percentage points over the last five years, but the demographic still has the lowest graduation rate compared to other ethnicities – an 82% graduation rate versus 89%.
“There’s a gap that doesn’t close,” Steimetz said. “Even though the Latino LBUSD high-school graduation rates are rising, the gap between their performance and all others’ persists.”
Digital access is one of the more significant educational gaps that exists between Long Beach Latinos and other ethnicities, according to Steimetz. The biggest disparity is with desktop and laptop ownership, with 27% of Latino households lacking access to these devices, compared to 17.4% of all other households.
Steimetz illustrated this divide by using his child’s classroom experience as an example. Teachers often use the classroom communication application ClassDojo as a way to provide progress reports to parents about their children. During the summit, Steimetz presented one of these messages from his child’s teacher. “If your child does not have access to a computer or does not have access to the internet . . . it is each individual’s responsibility to complete the assignments at a local school or at a local library,” he read, before emphasizing that this digital disadvantage puts students at a higher risk of failing school. Most parents do not have time to transport their children to and from the library, Steimetz noted.
Despite a gap in technology ownership, the disparity in internet access is not as profound, although it’s still there, Steimetz said. In regard to the internet, 12.9% of Long Beach Latino households do not have access, compared to 11.1% of all other households. “If a student does not have access to technology, that’s going to affect their ability to learn,” Quintana said. “They won’t be able to access information in a quick manner.”
Anaya emphasized the importance in educating the community about the Latino population’s standing in Long Beach. She said the report has the potential to motivate city leaders in taking action to resolve this problem. “This report is a chance to show that this gap is real,” Anaya told the Business Journal. “It’s not just someone saying that it exists, but the numbers are supporting that. You can’t refute when you see a trend over the last decade that it’s [not] a systematic issue. We created this digestible format of [information] in hopes . . . of bringing these issues to light and motivating policymakers and the community to get together in a collaborative way and addressing what can be done.”
During the summit, attendees were encouraged to periodically discuss the presented information with their groups at each table. Event organizers provided at least 20 minutes for each table to develop any policy recommendations or proposed solutions on resolving some of the issues presented in the report. Juan Benitez, executive director of CSULB’s Center for Community Engagement, compiled these recommendations into a list, which will later be evaluated more thoroughly, he told the Business Journal.
Citing the various education and economic disparities, some groups suggested launching a public education campaign for the city’s Latino population. This effort would focus on areas such as health care access, voter education and homeownership.
Economic inclusion policies were also proposed, including suggestions to put a moratorium on significant rent increases, create more affordable housing and establish a comprehensive workforce development plan. In terms of digital access, one group recommended free citywide internet access for working families and students.
“We want this entire process to serve as a mechanism . . . not just for our [Latino] communities, but for all communities in Long Beach that are experiencing the impacts in housing, in the environment, in education and in economic development,” Benitez said during the summit.
The full Long Beach Latino Economic Report is available at the CSULB Department of Economics’ website at cla.csulb.edu/departments/economics.