Hispanics upbeat about future
If one’s perception is, effectively, one’s reality, then we can expect life to get better soon. That’s because despite the media — and a certain presidential candidate — battering us with negativity about demographic change, racial strife and political polarization, America’s 55 million Latinos are feeling sunny about the future.
In a new National Council of La Raza poll of Latino registered voters’ views on the economy and health care, 51 percent of respondents said the economy is getting better. Forty-eight percent said that a year from now, they expect to be doing better financially, with 63 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds saying so compared with 36 percent of respondents 36 and older.
A full 66 percent said they expect that their financial future and opportunities will be better than their parents’.
Though the individuals polled expressed fears about Social Security not being around when they retire, about debt loads and about potential job losses, majorities (61 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds and 55 percent of those 36 and older) still said they believe their hard work will pay off and they will be able to get ahead. To give you an idea of just how radically positive these young Latinos are compared with other groups, let’s look at the Harvard Institute of Politics’ most recent national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds.
When asked whether they are “hopeful” or “fearful” about the future of America, 51 percent of all respondents indicated that they are fearful. However, of the whites, blacks and Hispanics who were polled, no group was more fearful about America’s future than white men and women.
Sixty percent of white women and 54 percent of white men were scared about the future — about 10 percentage points more than Hispanic women and men. And only 36 percent of white males and 32 percent of white females said they expected to be better off financially than their parents, compared with 45 percent of Hispanic males and 52 percent of Hispanic females.
I blame this on a decade’s worth of alarmist news headlines about minorities displacing white people as the new majority. Without a doubt, 10 years or so of pitting minorities against white people in a highstakes game of demography-isdestiny was the impetus for this year’s presidential contest in which making America “great again” was code for making it white again.
There are upsides to the population shift that — because they are boring compared with screechy articles about imminent white extinction — don’t get enough play.
The demographer William H. Frey says the “diversity explosion” that is driving our population growth is a legitimate reason for optimism. Put bluntly, Americans are aging — and a young generation of Hispanics, Asians and multiracial Americans are coming of age just as the largely white, older U.S. population needs people to care for them and to pay in to Social Security.
Frey is optimistic that if policies align to adequately support this next generation, the impact will be a net positive.
Imagine the progress and prosperity that could be unleashed through the hopefulness and energy of a young Latino population if the country started seeing them as a benefit.