New Report Finds U.S. Latino Children Gaining Ground in Education

September 24, 2014

Bethesda, Md.—A new report, America’s Hispanic Children: Gaining Ground, Looking Forward, documents important areas where Hispanic children are gaining ground, especially in education. The report, issued by the new Child Trends Hispanic Institute with support from the Televisa Foundation, also examines challenges such as high rates of poverty, some troubling health indicators, and high rates of teen childbearing among the country’s 17.5 million Hispanic children and youth.

The proportion of youth ages 16-24 who are high school dropouts has declined in recent years for all groups, but the decrease among Latinos is substantial – from 29 percent in 1999 to 13 percent in 2012.  The percentage of Latino 8th graders achieving at or above the “proficient” level in math (an important predictor of high school completion) has also increased – from 8 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2014. Latinos are now the largest racial/ethnic minority group on college campuses, although progress has not been as steady in regard to college completion.

Latino preschoolers lag behind white and black children in knowing their ABCs and numbers and being able to write their names or read written words but they have higher levels of social-emotional skills – such as self-control and cooperation. Research has found these skills are also important for academic success. While Latino children are less likely than white and black children to participate in center-based early care and education programs, their participation has increased by one-third since 2007. Just over half (52 percent) of Latino children were in early care programs in 2012 – compared to 63 percent of white children and 68 percent of black children.

“By 2050, one-third of the U.S. working-age population is projected to be Latino,” said Child Trends Hispanic Institute Director Lina Guzman. “It is important for our future that we invest in high-quality early childhood programs, parent education, and preventive health care programs. Research has found that many of these programs have a positive return and yield long-term benefits for children and society.”

With more than 22 statistical charts, America’s Hispanic Children– Gaining Ground, Looking Forward provides a comprehensive portrait of Hispanic children across six areas: demographics, economics, family, education, health, and media use.

Other report highlights:


  • 87 percent of Hispanic children speak English very well.
  • Hispanic children make up the majority of dual-language learners, or English-language learners.
  • Research has found that there are significant cognitive and social benefits of comfortably using more than one language, and many Hispanic children benefit from this.  At the same time, proficiency in Englishis important.  To the extent that language limits parents’ or children’s ability to navigate the school system, for example, it could hinder children’s educational progress.

Economic and other Challenges:

  • The majority of Hispanic children (62 percent) live in low-income families—conventionally defined as those with incomes less than twice the federal poverty level, where many experts believe families can just meet basic needs. Roughly one in three Hispanic children lives in poverty. And one in eight lives in deep poverty (family income less than half the poverty line).
  • More than half of Hispanic parents (51 percent) report that their children have had at least one “adverse childhood experience” in their lives. These adverse experiences include such things as separation from or loss of a parent, growing up in poverty, and witnessing or experiencing violence. For at least some Hispanic children, these adverse experiences are associated with their families’ immigration experiences.

Health– a Strong Start for Infants but Challenges Persist Among Older Children:

  • Hispanics have low infant mortality. Hispanic infants are more likely to be born at a healthy weight and more likely to be breastfed relative to other racial/ethnic groups.
  • At the same time, Hispanic children have high rates of overweight/obesity, and low rates of physical activity. More than one in five Hispanic youth are obese and one in six is overweight. Just over one in four Hispanic males, and one in six Hispanic females, is getting the recommended amount of daily exercise.
  • In the teen years, Latinos have high rates of substance abuse when compared to teens from other racial/ethnic groups. In 2012, more than half of Hispanic teens (54 percent) reported having used an illicit drug, versus 45 percent for black teens and 43 percent for white teens. Cigarette smoking is an exception: in 2013, six percent of white tenth-graders smoked daily, compared with three percent of both black and Hispanic tenth-graders.
  • Hispanics also have the highest rates of teen childbearing among all racial/ethnic groups, although here the tide is turning. In recent years, teen pregnancy rates have been coming down faster for Hispanics than for any other racial/ethnic group. Between 2006 and 2010, rates for Hispanic teen pregnancy declined by 29 percent compared to 18 and 14 percent, respectively for blacks and whites.

America’s Hispanic Children: Gaining Ground, Looking Forward points to data and that suggest a few potential avenues to further harness Hispanic children’s strengths to promote better outcomes. In addition to Latino parents’ high regard for education, Child Trends’ researchers note that typical Hispanic family life may benefit children. For example, Hispanic families are more likely than families in other racial/ethnic groups to eat frequent meals together, and parents report that they can “share ideas or talk about things that really matter” with their teenagers—both of which have been found to have positive benefits to children.

The report paints a complex picture of the largest racial/ethnic minority group of children in the United States. “In the midst of many troubling indicators, there are impressive signs of progress, and enduring strengths upon which to build, especially related to the promise of education,” explained Guzman. “Our intention in releasing this report is to widen the lens on America’s Latino children, a large and diverse group,” she added.


About Child Trends

Child Trends, based in Bethesda, Md., is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that provides valuable information and insights on the well-being of children and youth. For more than 30 years, policymakers, funders, educators and service providers in the U.S. and around the world have relied on our data and analyses to improve policies and programs serving children and youth. In June 2014, Child Trends launched the Child Trends Hispanic Institute to add to the knowledge base on the fastest-growing group of children in the U.S. Our work is supported by foundations; federal, state and local government agencies; and by nonprofit organizations. Child Trends has more than 100 employees and annual revenue of about $14 million.

About Televisa Foundation

The Televisa Foundation is a U.S.-registered 501(c)-3 created in September 2013 by Grupo Televisa of Mexico City, the leading media group in the Spanish-speaking world. The mission of the Foundation is to help propel Latino children and youth through innovative educational and cultural initiatives.