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Who are the Latinx Women Who Move the US? (Part 1)

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a date that celebrates women’s struggle for equal rights, the fight against violence and the end of machismo and misogyny. The date was made official by the UN only in 1975, but it has been celebrated since at least 1910. Women’s Day was born as a celebration of decades of women’s political engagement and recognition of the female cause.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have created a two-part series to celebrate their struggles and achievements and to provide an overview of the influence, relevance and strength of Latinx women in the USA. They come from diverse backgrounds and have varying levels of education and work experiences, which define their social and economic integration.

Shall we start by getting to know who they are?

Who and where are America’s Latinx women?

The success of Latinas and the United States are necessarily linked. Latinx women are in large numbers (around 30 million), which makes them the basis of the American economy and extremely influential in relevant matters, such as elections.

Yet more than half of Latinas are second-, third-, and fourth-generation Americans, who face deep-rooted structural inequalities in education, health, and the economy, limiting Latinas’ ability to build generational wealth.

Here are some numbers that show the demographic situation of these women:

  • There are almost 30 million Latino women living in the United States, representing 18.1% of all women in the country.
  • California and Texas have the largest Latinx populations, with 7.7 million and 5.7 million Latinas, respectively. Florida, New York, Arizona and Illinois each have more than 1 million Latinas. Together, these six states are home to 68.2% of all Latinas living in the United States.
  • The vast majority of Latinas in the US are of Mexican origin (62%). The remaining population is Puerto Rican (8.7%), Cuban (4.1%), Central American (8.9%), South American (6.8%) or other Latino origin (9.5 %).
  • 34% of Latinx women are between 0 and 19 years old, compared to 20% of non-Hispanic white women.
  • Only 9% of Latinas are of retirement age, compared to 22% of non-Hispanic white women.
  • It is estimated that 27% of all women in the United States will be Latina by 2060.

How is access to education for Latinx women in the US?

As with all indicators, Latinx women have made significant strides in educational attainment over the past two decades. Normally, by increasing school participation and educational attainment, there is a chance to reduce unemployment and increase income.

However, some demographic groups face more difficulties than others. The number of Latinx women graduating from high school and college grows every year, but this is still not reflected in access to opportunities. Latinx people as a whole contributed $2.6 trillion to the US economy in 2019, but Latinas still earn 55 cents for every dollar earned by non-Hispanic white men.

The AAUW survey points to the following data on the education of Latinas in the US:

  • Latinas’ graduation rates still lag behind other demographics.
  • Latinas have the highest high school dropout rate of any race/ethnicity of women except American Indian/Alaska Native Women.
  • Between 2000 and 2019, the proportion of Latinas aged 25 and over who completed high school or higher increased by 26.6%.
  • Between 2000 and 2019, the proportion of Latinas aged 25 and over who had a bachelor’s degree or higher nearly doubled.
  • In 2019, more than 1.1 million Latinas (5.7%) had advanced degrees.
  • Latinx families with a head of household who had a four-year college degree earned twice as much as families whose head of household did not have a college degree.
  • While schooling has the power to close the pay gap, Latinas with advanced degrees still earn less than non-Hispanic white men with a bachelor’s degree.

We know that the level of education and the ability to stay in school to the end is not directly linked to culture, interest or willpower. Latinx women are constantly responsible for their families and children, which often forces them to prioritize work over studying.

Latinx women’s access to health

Latinx women are more likely to be uninsured than women in almost any other demographic.

  • In 2019, 82.7% of Latinas had health insurance, compared to 93.7% of non-Hispanic white women.
  • Among Latinas ages 18 to 64, only 76.6% were covered by insurance, compared with 92.4% of non-Hispanic white women in the same age group.
  •   Among women earning less than $25,000 a year, 31% of Latinas are uninsured, compared with 16% of non-Hispanic white women.

These data carry cultural traits and traditional customs, since even outside the US, Latinx people are not used to purchasing insurance, unless mandatory, or when provided by the employer.

However, migration status affects access to employer-sponsored health insurance. US-born Latinx mothers were more likely (56%) to have access to employer-sponsored health insurance, compared with 42% of foreign-born Latinx mothers.

The health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the risks associated with the lack of access to health care. Financial instability, high participation in essential occupations and families formed by several generations living in one house, contributed to the high mortality rates among Latinas from the Coronavirus.

Cultural Preservation

The challenge for many immigrants is to find a balance between absorbing and adapting to the local culture and keeping alive the memory of their culture of origin. In the case of women, who are usually heads of families, the challenge is even greater when they are responsible for children and the elderly. 

  • 53% of Latinx women over 16 live in bilingual homes that fully embrace both cultures. They are called 200% because they say they are 100% Latina and 100% American.
  • 22% of women over 16 years old are completely dependent on Spanish. Added to the 53% of bilingual women, 75% of the households speak Spanish. Only 25% speak only English.
  • Among Latinx mothers, 74% consider it essential that their children speak their native language, as a way of preserving the culture.
  • 86% prefer Latin food restaurants to keep their palates accustomed to the flavors of home.
  • 69% think it is important to respect traditional cultures and beliefs, rather than diving headlong into the culture of the new country.

To learn more…

Soon we will post the second part, which will delve deeper into the economic and political situation of Latinx women in the USA. Stay tuned!

If you want to know more about the LatinX community, we have a series of articles that might interest you:

LATINX COMMUNITY: It is just the beginning!

LATINX POWER: Latinx and the US Real Estate market

LATINX IN BUSINESS: Latinx and Entrepreneurship in the US

LatinX Wealth: reserves, investments and retirement

Luciana Sá

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