glish remains highly controversial: there is no consensus on how best to teach non-English-speaking students across the grade spectrum.
The significance of Hispanics’ high school dropout rates, low enrollment rates in 4-year colleges, and need to master English cannot be overstated because the fastest-growing and best-paying jobs now require at least some postsecondary education. In 1999, nearly 6 of 10 jobs required college-level skills, including many that had not required college training in the past. In rapidly growing occupations, such as health services, nearly three in four jobs now require some college education. These trends bode ill for Hispanics as their college attendance and graduation gap with whites widens.
Additional challenges for Hispanics are posed by new developments that affect families and children. The number of Hispanic mother-only families is growing, as it is for other ethnic and racial groups. Because mother-only families are significantly more likely to be poor, this trend signals heightened vulnerabilities for a growing number of youth. Moreover, it is too soon to tell what the long-term effects of welfare reform will be on Hispanics—especially on groups that rely most heavily on public benefits.
Young people are also at risk of failure because of the rising numbers of Hispanic families that lack health insurance. Expansions of federally subsidized programs such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program appear unlikely in an era of unprecedented federal budget deficits. Continued immigration of Hispanics from Mexico and other countries in Central and South America, coupled with their geographic dispersal to areas unaccustomed to providing care for diverse groups of patients, will challenge current approaches to providing health insurance coverage and health care to low-income Hispanics, particularly to recent immigrants.
There are also troublesome signs of declining health among Hispanic children, signaled by elevated levels of risk for diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease, along with increasing rates of obesity and its myriad complications. For the burgeoning second generation, the implications of this trend are ominous, especially in light of the number of children who do not receive preventive care because they lack health care coverage.
With institutional investments, Hispanic immigrants and their children can acquire the education and language skills necessary to realize the Hispanic demographic dividend, namely the higher earning potential of a youthful Hispanic workforce. In 2000 the 2-year average educational gap between all Hispanics and whites cost about $100 billion in lost earnings.