‘Latinos in Long Beach work harder but earn less’ among findings in new report

Long Beach’s Latino working residents contribute $34.3 billion annually to the economies of Los Angeles and Orange counties—representing 38.1% of the city’s total economic impact.

Of that $34.3 billion, a total of $13.7 billion is generated by Latino immigrants, according to an updated Long Beach Latino Economic Report revealed Friday at Cal State Long Beach.

The report was presented during the second annual Long Beach Latino Economic Summit and is a collaboration between CSULB, the city of Long Beach and the local Latino-serving social service agency Centro CHA to provide key information on the city’s largest ethnic group.

This year’s updated report put a spotlight on the economic impact Latinos and Latino immigrants have on the regional economy.

Using Census data and an economic software system—and at the request of stakeholders at last year’s summit—the report’s authors found that over 11,000 of Long Beach Latinos are self-employed, generating an economic impact of $2.1 billion and creating or sustaining an additional 5,445 jobs annually.

Additionally, the report found that in 2017 Latino households paid $807 million in local, state and federal taxes—about 36% of the city’s household taxes—with Latino immigrant households paying $249 million—about 16% of the city’s household taxes.

And every $100 earned by a Long Beach Latino created an economic impact of $169, while every 100 jobs held by Long Beach Latinos creates 76 additional jobs.

Latinos in Long Beach: First report of its kind examines the city’s largest demographic

The report highlights the contributions Latinos are making with regard to taxes and multiplying jobs, said Centro CHA Executive Director Jessica Quintana, who is also one of the report’s authors.

“I think it really tells a different story when everybody has a perception that we’re using public services—we’re a drain on the community and the economy—and that just says differently,” Quintana said about the latest findings.

Co-author Seiji Steimetz agrees.

“The narrative is that immigrants—Latino or otherwise—come and take away jobs,” Steimetz, a professor and chair of CSULB’s economics department, said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth. They create jobs, they sustain jobs in the economy.”

Steimetz also laid out another striking aspect of the report: Despite the high levels of employment seen among working Latinos, their income was among the lowest.

Representing 41.4% of the city’s working residents, 102,209 Long Beach Latinos participate in the region’s civilian labor force, according to the report. Yet their median household income is $51,646, which is 14.7% lower than the city’s overall median household income of $60,557.

This is due in part because of the occupations held by Long Beach Latinos.

A total of 25% of Long Beach Latinos work in the service sector compared to 17% for other ethnicities. At the same time, only 23% of Long Beach Latinos work in white-collar jobs compared to 48% of all other Long Beach residents.

“Latinos in Long Beach work harder but earn less,” Steimetz said.

From left: Cal State Long Beach professor Seiji Steimetz, Long Beach Economic Development Director John Keisler, Centro CHA Executive Director Jessica Quintana and Long Beach Unified School District board member Juan Benitez. Steimetz, Quintana and Benitez are co-authors of the Long Beach Latino Economic Report that was presented Friday, October 18, 2019 at CSULB. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Other key findings include:

  • Latinos represent 43.2% of Long Beach’s population, a decrease by 3.1% from last year’s report.
  • Only 4% of Latinos under 18 are non-citizens, compared to 26% of Latinos 18 and older.
  • A total of 38% of Long Beach Latinos age 25 and older have less than a high school education, compared to 10% among all other Long Beach residents in that age group.
  • A total of 27% of Latino households in Long Beach do not own a desktop or laptop computer, compared to 17.4% of all other Long Beach households.
  • A total of 16.4% of all Long Beach Latino families live in poverty, compared to 9.8% of all other Long Beach families that live in poverty.

Despite some of the grim data revealed, co-author Juan Benitez said the hope is to turn the information into a policy framework.

The report highlighted four policy areas focused on Long Beach that Benitez hopes will become concrete policy recommendations with its third iteration:

  1. Economic inclusion to address Latinx poverty and prosperity
  2. Closing opportunity gaps in education to address Latinx educational opportunities
  3. Eliminating health disparities to address Latinx health inequities and
  4. Immigrant integration to address immigrant rights and support for Latinx immigrant populations

“Our goal is to compile what we have here today and then do a second iteration of concrete policy recommendations that we can present to [policymakers] but also additional groups like foundations, nonprofits and community settings to get a policy agenda for our Latinx community members,” said Benitez, who is a CSULB professor and Long Beach Unified School District board member.

Benitez said it’s also about aligning to local, regional, state and even national efforts.

“We can then start taking concrete steps to either implement policy, get rid of bad policy, and/or shifting the narrative,” Benitez said. “That’s ultimately the goal.”

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. Growing up as one of six kids in the working-class immigrant suburb of South Gate, she was taught the importance of civic engagement and to show compassion for others. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015. An avid Harry Potter fan, Stephanie now lives in Bixby Knolls with her boyfriend and their bearded dragon, Austin.
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