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Hispanics’ skin color has impact on jobs, pay

Los Angeles Times – Washington Post News Service

White Latinos earning more than those of other races, study finds

L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service

Latinos work different jobs, earn different levels of pay and reside in segregated neighborhoods based on the shade of their skin, according to a report to be released today.

The report, “How Race Counts for Hispanic Americans,” follows the recent declaration by census officials that Latinos, who can be of any race, have become the nation’s largest ethnic minority.

Its authors, the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research at the State University of New York in Albany, and others who examine the U.S. Latino population said it is the first to look at how the group is divided along the color line.

Latinos who described themselves as white on Census 2000 have the highest incomes and lowest rates of unemployment and poverty, and they tend to live near communities of non-Latino whites, said the report, which analyzed census figures nationwide.

Nearly 50 percent of Latinos who filed census forms said they are white, according to the center’s report.

The 2.7 percent of Latinos who described themselves as black, most of them from the Caribbean, have lower incomes and higher rates of poverty than the other groups – despite having a higher level of education.

Among Latinos who described themselves as “some other race,” earnings and levels of poverty and unemployment fall between black and white members of their ethnic group. About 47 percent of Latinos said on census forms that they are “some other race,” according to the report.

“The point of the report,” said lead researcher John R. Logan, “is that if we take seriously the way people talk about their race, and the reality of their lives, we find that there are real distinctions between white and black Latinos and Hispanics who say they are some other race.”

White Hispanics, the report said, have more economic power: Their median household income is $39,900, about $5,000 more than the median income of black Hispanic households and about $2,500 more than Hispanics who say they are some other race.

But black Hispanics are better-educated: They average nearly 12 years of education, compared with 11 for white Hispanics and 10 for the “other race” group. Despite their education levels, black Hispanics have 12 percent unemployment, compared with 8 percent for white Hispanics and about 10 percent for Hispanics who say they are neither black nor white.

Logan said black Hispanics are intermarrying with blacks at a rate much higher than white Hispanics with white non-Hispanics and Hispanics of some other race with any other ethnic or racial group.

Lisa Navarette, a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza, a Washington-based Latino civil rights organization and think tank, said the report shows “what we’ve been saying all along: that Latinos who come to the U.S. are affected by how Americans view race.”

Some Latino activists say it doesn’t matter how they see themselves. “Latinos who come here to the United States have to choose,” said Navarette, who is Cuban and white. “There’s the Cuban example, where recent white and black arrivals from Cuba who lived next to each other in their home country came to Miami. They had to choose between so-called white areas for those who were lighter, while black people wind up in black neighborhoods like Liberty City.”

But Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, was not willing to draw quick conclusions based on the Mumford Center report. While it is important, he said, it is only a first step toward understanding how Latinos mix racially.

“What they’ve done is interesting work, but there’s a ton of questions that you have to ask,” Suro said. “They’ve come up with a very definitive statement: Race counts. But it doesn’t count for Hispanics the way it does other Americans.

If they did this 100 years ago, you would find that whites of Italian descent and whites of Irish descent lived in clusters. Was it their race or was it their nationality?”

Suro believes Latinos might separate themselves by nationality rather than skin color. He said the largest segments of black Latinos – Puerto Ricans and Dominicans – are concentrated in different areas in New York.

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