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Hispanic Poverty Said Linked to Lack of Education

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Lack of educational attainment may be the single greatest cause of Hispanic poverty, according to a report by the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

The issues of Hispanic poverty and education were also covered in a report released this summer by the U.S. Census Bureau. That document and the N.C.L.R. study both show that Hispanics currently lag far behind whites in both educational attainment and income, and that Hispanic children are especially affected by social disparities.

The Census Bureau report found that more than 40 percent of Hispanic children live in poverty, compared with just 13 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Puerto Rican children fared the worst, with nearly 58 percent falling below the poverty line.

The N.C.L.R. report stresses, however, that Hispanic poverty is not intractable.

"The research demonstrates that much of the poverty in our community is amenable to policy intervention,'' Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the organization, said in releasing the report.

The La Raza report maintains that government policies aimed at increasing Hispanic educational attainment would be especially effective in reducing Hispanic poverty.

The new Census Bureau report represents the bureau's first attempt to ask Hispanics which specific academic degrees they have, rather than simply how many years of school they have completed.

Hispanics are disproportionately likely to have less than a 5th-grade education, the report reveals, and less likely than other ethnic groups to have gone to college.

Among people over the age of 25, 12 percent of Hispanics have less than a 5th-grade education, compared with just 1 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

About a quarter of Hispanics in this age group had some college education, compared with about 46 percent of non-Hispanic whites, the Census Bureau notes.

Hispanics also were less likely than whites to have postsecondary degrees, earning bachelor's, master's, and professional or doctoral degrees at less than half the rates of their white peers, the Census Bureau found.

Path Out of Poverty

The N.C.L.R. report, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, says equalizing educational-attainment levels between Hispanics and whites would do more than anything else to lift Hispanics out of poverty.

If there were no differences in educational attainment between Hispanics and whites, the report indicates, 29.6 percent of all low-income Hispanics over the age of 25 would be lifted above the poverty line.

Discrimination also is extremely harmful to Hispanics, the report maintains. It estimates that ending employment discrimination against Hispanics would lift out of poverty more than 26 percent of all poor Hispanic families that have a full-time worker as a member.

"No antidiscrimination plan that doesn't take into account the importance of education and discrimination can be taken seriously,'' Mr. Yzaguirre said.

Copies of the N.C.L.R. report, "State of Hispanic America 1993: Toward a Latino Anti-Poverty Agenda,'' can be obtained by calling (202) 289-1380.

Copies of the Census Bureau publication, "The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 1992,'' can be obtained by calling (301) 763-4100.

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