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Study Points to Differences in Latino Groups

May 30, 1996|MELISSA HEALY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — A new demographic study of the nation's Latinos has found sharp lines dividing the U.S.-born and foreign-born populations that its authors say are not recognized by most Americans, including government officials.

The study, released Wednesday by the Latino Urban Policy Agenda, shows that U.S.-born Latinos fare consistently better than their foreign-born counterparts in median incomes, proficiency in English and participation in the work force.

Those differences are not reflected in current policy debates, however, said Harry Pachon, one author of the study.

Although the nation's Spanish-speaking community is dominated by a "stable, integrated" Latino population, public policy is driven by perceptions that Latinos in the United States are similar to the newly arrived immigrants, said Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Center, a national institute for policy studies on Latino issues. The center is at the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, Calif.

"The confusion of characteristics of foreign- and native-born leads to extremism and measures such as Proposition 187, and that bubbles over to become anti-immigrant sentiment," Pachon said. Many politicians "are confusing the characteristics of Latino port-of-entry populations with overall characteristics of the Latino population."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday May 31, 1996 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Puerto Ricans--An article in Thursday's Times about a demographic study of the nation's Latino population included Puerto Ricans who move to the continental United States under the category of "foreign born." Although the study listed island-born Puerto Ricans under that title, Puerto Rico is a U.S. possession and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

In Los Angeles and Miami, half the Latino population is foreign-born. In Houston, a third are born outside the United States, and in New York City, a fourth are foreign-born, according to Pachon.

The report, "Toward a Latino Urban Policy Agenda," shows that among Latinos born in the United States, 93% speak English well, compared with 51.3% of immigrant Mexicans. The figure for immigrant Puerto Ricans is 75%; for Colombians, 66.1%; and for Cubans, 61.1%.

The report says that 6.6% of all Latinos in the United States receive public assistance income--a figure twice as high as the 3% of whites but significantly lower than the 10.8% of African Americans.

American-born Latinos of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Colombian origin are less likely than their foreign-born counterparts to receive public assistance.

But for native-born Mexican Americans, the opposite is true: 5.5% of those born in the United States receive public assistance but just 3.1% of Mexican immigrants do so. That figure could have special significance for California, where politicians have pressed for a cutoff of public assistance to immigrants.

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