Report

The Changing Pathways of Hispanic Youths Into Adulthood

  • October 07, 2009
  • By Richard Fry

Young Latino adults in the United States are more likely to be in school or the work force now than their counterparts were in previous generations. In 1970, 77% of Hispanics ages 16 to 251 were either working, going to school or serving in the military; by 2007, 86% of Latinos in this coming-of-age group were taking part in these skill-building endeavors, according to a comprehensive analysis of four decades of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

The growth over time in the share of youths involved in such market-oriented activities is not limited to Latinos. Similar changes have occurred among black and white youths. But the Latino trends are particularly noteworthy because their share of the young adult population has risen so dramatically during this period-to 18% in 2007, more than triple their 5% share in 1970.

The increase in their attachment to school or the work world (which includes employment by the military) has been driven mainly by the changes in the endeavors of young Hispanic females. In 1970, only one-third of young female Hispanics were enrolled in school or college; by 2007, nearly half of young female Hispanics were pursuing schooling.

The labor force participation of young female Latinos has also grown during this time period, from 40% in 1970 to 54% in 2007.

Even with these gains, however, nearly one-in-five (19%) female Latino young adults in 2007 were not in school or in the work force. This figure exceeds the 16% share of young black men who were not in school or in the work force, a surprising comparison in light of the fact that the labor market and schooling difficulties of young black men have received much more public attention than have those of young Hispanic women.

In the case of young Latinas, motherhood accounts for some-but not most-of their detachment from work and school. Birthrates among young Latino women are higher than those of whites or blacks, but these rates have been falling for decades. In 1970, two-thirds of the young Hispanic women who were not in school or the work force were mothers; by 2007, this share had dropped to less than a majority.

Read the full report The Changing Pathways of Hispanic Youths Into Adulthood on the Pew Hispanic Center's Web site.