CUNY SOC 217 - Latino Neighborhoods and Latino Neighborhood Poverty (16 pages)

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Latino Neighborhoods and Latino Neighborhood Poverty



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Journal of Urban Affairs Fall 1997 v19 n4 p445 23 Page 1 Latino neighborhoods and Latino neighborhood poverty by Maria E Enchautegui In this article I use 1980 and 1990 US census tracts that were 50 or more Latino to present a socioeconomic portrait of Latino neighborhoods and to investigate the determinants of poverty and the factors behind the poverty increase of Latinos in these neighborhoods Results show that Latinos in Latino tracts rank worse than US Latinos on virtually all socioeconomic measures Recent immigrants raise Latino neighborhood poverty while long term immigrants reduce it The 1979 to 1989 increase in poverty in Latino neighborhoods can be explained better by changes in the payoffs of the characteristics that affect poverty than by changes in the value of these characteristics Changes in the industrial composition of employment had a relatively large poverty increasing effect Data from the 1980 and 1990 Population Censuses were used to develop a socioeconomic profile of Latino neighborhoods and to examine the causes of poverty in these neighborhoods The findings revealed that Latino residents of Latino neighborhoods ranked lower in nearly all measures of economic distress than Latinos in non Latino communities The worsening poverty rate in Latino neighborhoods between 1979 and 1989 was attributed to changes in the payoffs of the factors that affect poverty COPYRIGHT 1997 JAI Press Inc In this article I present a socioeconomic portrait of Latino neighborhoods and investigate the determinants of poverty in Latino neighborhoods and the factors behind the increase in poverty between 1979 and 1989 I use census tracts that were 50 or more Latino as a proxy for Latino neighborhoods There is a growing interest in neighborhoods as relevant units for poverty analysis Research has shown that living in a poor neighborhood reduces educational attainment and employment increases teenage childbearing and impedes successful child development Brooks Gunn et al 1993 Corcoran et al 1992 Crane 1991 Mayer 1991 Wilson 1987 articulated how neighborhood poverty results in an exodus of resources that only exacerbates poor economic performance The underclass framework of primary importance in the poverty literature of the 1980s focuses on neighborhoods as the foundation for poverty production and reproduction The main reason for analyzing poverty from a neighborhood perspective is that a neighborhood is a spatial organizer of social and economic opportunity Neighborhoods organize opportunity mainly through the externalities that cohesion and interactions of residents and shared facilities produce Tienda 1991 Due to neighborhood externalities the behavior of the individual and the neighbor are not independent of each other even when daily transactions of individuals may not reveal this interaction White 1987 Externalities surpass individual relationships and have no analog at the individual level Because of data limitations and the fact that people make choices about where to live neighborhood effects on individuals are difficult to identify and interpret Tienda 1991 Individual level analysis of poverty is polluted by these externalities or neighborhood effects Jencks Mayer 1990 Tienda 1991 Most studies of poor neighborhoods and urban poverty have analyzed African Americans Anderson 1990 Jargowsky 1994 Massey Gross 1993 Rosenbaum Popkin 1991 Wilson 1987 Latinos are not only a growing component of the US population but a growing component of the urban poor population as well Like African Americans Latinos living in poverty face high levels of ethnic and economic segregation Massey Denton 1987 Yet we know relatively little about Latino neighborhoods and about Latino poverty from a neighborhood perspective Some information about Latino neighborhoods has surfaced from ethnographic studies of selected areas Moore 1989 Moore Pinderhughes 1993 Morales 1986 Rivera 1984 but a national portrayal of Latino neighborhoods and an understanding of the forces driving Latino poverty at the neighborhood level are lacking In the analysis carried out in this article I stress the neighborhood level interpretation of Latino poverty The neighborhood is particularly relevant for Latinos The neighborhood or el barrio is commonly thought of as pivotal in the process of economic achievement of Latinos Latino neighborhoods contain institutions that are crucial for the economic and social mobility of Latinos and that advance cohesiveness across families of different arrival and immigrant generations Reprinted with permission Additional copying is prohibited Information Access COMPANY Journal of Urban Affairs Fall 1997 v19 n4 p445 23 Page 2 Latino neighborhoods and Latino neighborhood poverty I classify explanations for Latino neighborhood poverty in five groups demographics economic structure skills self reliance and neighborhood wealth Many of the relationships investigated in this article have not been examined before in the literature and their definite effect on Latino poverty needs confirmation from future research Among the demographic variables immigration is of interest Researchers of Latino poverty argue that the exodus of human capital that produces deterioration and poverty concentration in African American neighborhoods as that proposed by Wilson 1987 is absent in Latino neighborhoods because the vigor of new immigrants substitutes for the population that leaves Melendez 1992 Moore 1989 and because immigrants form strong neighborhood institutions Others however have suggested that the increase in poverty among Latinos is due to immigration because immigrants have higher poverty rates than natives Acs Danziger 1993 In this article I try to ascertain the relationship between poverty and immigration at the neighborhood level Among the variables affecting poverty and related to economic structure industrial restructuring is of special interest Research on Latinos has produced mixed results about the effect of metropolitan level economic structure on Latino economic status Eggers Massey 1991 Galster Mincy 1993 Santiago Wilder 1991 The neighborhood level analysis might be better able to capture neighborhood structural forces that affect poverty The poverty of Latinos also could be related to their low skill levels because a high proportion of Latinos do not have a high school diploma However despite their low educational level Latinos are very attached to the labor market have built vibrant neighborhoods and


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