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

Latinos make up 44.5 percent of Long Beach’s population, yet the city’s largest demographic is also one of the poorest, works mainly in the service and manual labor sectors and many are without health insurance, according to a preliminary report released Thursday.

“Even though a lot of Latinos are working, we’re in jobs that don’t pay very much and don’t offer good benefits,” said Juan Benitez, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and professor at Cal State Long Beach and newly elected Long Beach Unified School District board member.

Benitez helped spearhead the creation of the Economic Profile of the Latino Community in Long Beach along with Jessica Quintana, executive director of the Latino nonprofit Centro CHA, and Cal State Long Beach Economics Department Chair Seiji Steimetz, among others.

This is the first report of its kind focusing specifically on Latinos in the city, but it’s only considered a snapshot with more data expected to be gathered as community stakeholders examine the data, Benitez said. The report was released during a roundtable at the Museum of Latin American Art with select community members providing input.

“We want this to spark a conversation around key policy considerations and their implications,” Benitez said.

Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez said a report like this is instrumental to drafting next-step policies. Councilman Rex Richardson said the findings also highlight a racial equity issue, including the lack of representation of minorities in leadership positions in both the private and public sectors.

What was most striking for Benitez was how educational outcomes connect to other outcomes.

“Higher pay leads to home ownership and healthcare and higher pay is achieved through education,” Benitez said.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

Population

  • Latinos account for over 209,000 of Long Beach residents, or 44.5 percent of the city’s population.
  • Most Latinos are concentrated in the north, northwest and southwest areas of the city.
  • Mexicans make up 83.6 percent of the Latino population.
  • 99 percent of Latinos speak at least some English.
  • Only 3 percent of underage Latinos are foreign-born, compared to 50.2 percent of foreign-born Latinos between 18 to 64, and 80.2 percent of foreign-born seniors.

Education

  • 60 percent of Latinos aged 25 and older have a high school diploma or equivalent, compared to 91 percent of other Long Beach residents in that age group.
  • 13.9 percent of Latinos aged 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher.Latinos enrolled in K-12 account for 43,000, or 58 percent of the population.
  • “Arts, humanities, and other” is the most popular bachelor’s degree among Latino college graduates.

Economics

  • A total of 105,000 Latinos represent 42 percent of the city’s working population aged 16 and older—a growth of 18.8 percent over the last decade.
  • 26 percent of Latinos work in the service sector, compared to 17 percent of all other residents.
  • 32 percent of Latinos work in the “natural resources, construction and maintenance” or “production, transportation & material moving” sectors, compared to 13 percent of all others.
  • 20 percent of Latinos work in the “management, business, science & arts” sector, compared to 48 percent of all others.
  • The median yearly income for Latino households is $52,000 compared to $66,000 for all other households.
  • More than one out of every five Latino families live in poverty, 21 percent compared to 8.7 percent of all other families.

Health

  • 23,000 Latinos do not have health insurance, including over 3,000 Latino children.
  • 8.8 percent of Latino seniors do not have health insurance, compared to 0.4 percent of all other seniors.
  • Only 14,007 Latinos report suffering from a disability, about 6.5 percent of the Latino population, compared to 12.2 percent of all other Long Beach residents. Researchers believe it’s possible Latinos are less willing to self-report disabilities.

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. 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.
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