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Hispanics Make 'Modest Gains' In Educational Level, Census Says

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WASHINGTON--Hispanic Americans "made modest gains in educational attainment" during the past decade but still lag far behind their non-Hispanic peers, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The percentage of Hispanics over 25 years old who had at least completed four years of high school rose from 46 percent in 1983 to 51 percent this year, the Census Bureau said in its annual report on the nation's Hispanic population.

Despite their progress, Hispanics still lagged far behind non-Hispanic Americans in the same age bracket, more than 80 percent of whom had at least completed four years of high school, the report said.

The report also noted that some Hispanic groups fared far better than others, with people whose families came from Cuba and Central and South America doing much better in school than those of Mexican origin.

Sonia M. Perez, a policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic civil-rights organization, said the Census Bureau figures indicate a need to target more resources toward improving the education of disadvantaged Hispanic youths.

"We still have only slightly more than half the Hispanic population 25 and over completing high school,"

Ms. Perez noted. "The picture the report paints is a mixed one."

Other Findings

The bureau's figures for the higher and lower ends of the educational-attainment spectrum were similar to its figures for high-school graduates.

Although the percentage of Hispanics over 25 who had completed four years of college or more rose to 10 percent, from 8 percent in 1983, it still remained well below the 22 percent level for non-Hispanics.

And, although the percentage of Hispanics who had completed less than five years of schooling dropped from about 16 percent to 12.5 percent during the same period, that figure was far higher than the 1.6 percent of non-Hispanics with as little education, the report said.

The Census Bureau noted that the combined before-tax income of all Hispanic households rose 67 percent between 1982 and 1990. The increase was due both to dramatic growth in size of the Hispanic population and a 9 percent rise in the median household income of Hispanic families.

Median family incomes in 1990 ranged from $18,000 for Puerto Ricans to $31,400 for Cubans.

Puerto Rican families were the least likely to be maintained by a married couple and the most likely to be headed by a woman with no husband present, the report said.

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