Shining a New Light on Hispanic Children

Today, one in four children in the U.S. are Hispanic. By 2050, Hispanics are projected to be one in three of all children. Given the size and growth of the Hispanic child population, how Latino children fare will have profound implications for our country. Indeed, one could say that, as Hispanic children go, so goes the nation.

Yet, there is a significant knowledge gap regarding our country’s Latino children and youth, especially when compared with our knowledge base for other groups of children in the U.S.  This gap hinders our ability to invest wisely in programs and policies that can foster the development and advance the future prospects of Hispanic children and youth.

To help meet this critical need, we are proud to launch the Child Trends Hispanic Institute, the first national research center focused on Hispanic children and youth. The Institute will provide timely and insightful research-based information and guidance to improve outcomes for Latino children and youth in the U.S. The Institute builds on Child Trends’ 35-year history of producing high-quality applied research to inform programs and policies as well as our existing work studying Hispanic children and youth issues. Our research takes a whole-child, life-course perspective following the well-being of Latino children from birth to young adulthood across a range of areas including family wellbeing, early childhood, education, health, and economics, to name a few. We recognize that it takes a sustained investment throughout children’s life-course for them to thrive and succeed.

Child Trends’ Hispanic Institute also recognizes the great diversity within the Latino community whether this is manifested in country of origin, language spoken, generation, or region in the country in which they live. Consistent with our whole child approach, we will focus on both the challenges Latino children and families face, such as high dropout rates, poverty, and teen child bearing, as well as the many strengths of Latino children and their families—a strong emphasis on family, high rates of college enrollment, and a high percentage of breastfed babies,1 for example. Child Trends Hispanic Institute’s research will build on these strengths as we produce knowledge to better inform practitioners, policymakers, funders, and researchers who are working to improve outcomes for Latino children and youth.

The Institute’s first product is a report of our evaluation of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors. This is the first-ever random-assignment evaluation of a Latino parenting program in the United States – and it is no small program.  Operating in 34 states (including in many Head Start programs), Abriendo Puertas is a nationally-recognized initiative to help Latino parents increase their young children’s school readiness.  We found that the program makes a positive difference in the adoption of parenting behaviors that foster children’s learning and school readiness – important information for public officials, community leaders, and the philanthropic community.

Highlights of forthcoming research products include the release of a statistical portrait of Hispanic children and youth, which will provide the latest data on indicators of demographic trends, economic well-being, family life, health, education, and Latino children’s media use. We will also examine the progress Latino children are making in grade school math.

In addition, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within the Administration of Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded Child Trends and our partners a five-year cooperative agreement to research and inform how programs and policies can better support Hispanic children and families in the areas of economic self-sufficiency, healthy marriage and fatherhood, and early care and education. This project also includes efforts to foster the next generation of researchers focused on Latinos.

We recognize that we cannot meet this important challenge alone. We look forward to working with the Institute’s advisory council, which includes representatives from academia, business, media, and youth-serving organizations, and collaborating with the many individuals and organizations that share our commitment to helping Hispanics children achieve success in school, family, and life.  Here is to un futuro brillante  (a bright future) for our children.

1 Landale, N. S., McHale, S., Booth, A. (2010). Growing up Hispanic. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.