Altering perceptions

By Gregory Cappis

A new study disproves the common perception that Latinos, including undocumented residents, are a drain on public resources.

The University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies research illustrates that Latinos do not drain the economy. Instead, they contribute more money than the cost of public services they receive. This information was presented at The State of Latino Chicago conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 230 S. LaSalle St., on Nov. 16. The conference examined the topics of education, the working population and migration into the suburbs.

Juan Carlos Guzman, the report’s main author and director of research at the Notre Dame Institute, said that within the seven counties studied in the Chicago area, 73 percent of Latinos have a job, which was the highest among any race he researched. Hispanic workers, consumers and business owners contribute approximately $1.2 billion more in taxes than what is spent on the Latino population in public services. This contradicts the stereotype that Latinos take advantage of medical services more than any other population, according to Guzman.

“The idea that is out there [is] that Latinos use the emergency room services more than anybody else, but we found a recent report from the Center of

Disease Control, which actually finds the opposite,” he said. “Latinos are the least likely group to utilize emergency room services.”The data used in the study accounted for all residents of the region, including illegal immigrants, Guzman said.

Although Latinos contribute more than they spend, they do receive more services per dollar than any other ethnic group. This compares the money contributed to the economy in the form of tax dollars to the cost of public services used by each group. For example, Latinos average 77 cents worth of public services for each dollar contributed in taxes, according to Guzman. Caucasians only receive 38 cents worth of public services per tax dollar, which includes education, public safety, transportation, health care and other community services.

Latinos are able to contribute more money than they receive because of their previously mentioned employment rate. Guzman said one reason the Latino population has such a high rate of employment is because many of them are underemployed, or work for which they are overqualified. This could present a problem in the future as a higher percentage of the population becomes high school- and college-educated and seeks better quality jobs, according to John Koval, senior research fellow at DePaul University.

He said approximately 80 percent of the Latino labor force is composed of immigrants. This will change remarkably in the next 20 years, Koval added. He said plans need to be made to accommodate the 400,000 diploma-bearing Hispanic children who will be looking for jobs in the next 20 years.

As the population grows and parents seek the best schools for their children, many Latino families are moving out of the city and into the suburbs. The need for larger homes and better schools is causing this shift, according to Ngoan Le, program vice president of the Chicago Community Trust.

“They look to suburban schools as places where their children may have better services and a better chance of succeeding and of education advancement,” Le said.

In order to allow Latino children to succeed, Allert Brown-Gort, associate director at the Notre Dame Institute for Latino Studies, encouraged everybody, not just Latinos, to take action and influence the future of the country. He said Latinos are the least likely to vote. This could affect the impending ward redistricting that could make two more wards predominantly Hispanic, allowing them a greater say in Chicago politics. Guzman said he would like to see people use the information he presented to benefit the future Latino population.

“I hope that this report helps everybody in their job, in their situation, to try to change the perception that many people have of the Latino population,”

Guzman said.