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New report finds childhood poverty, education gaps for Utah's Latino population

Posted at 6:14 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 20:14:55-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report published by the Utah Foundation details the current state of Utah's Hispanic and Latino population in categories like housing, income, employment and education.

"El Estado de los Latinos en Utah: A look at Utah's Hispanic/Latino Population" compared Utah's Latino population to Utahns in general, as well as with Latinos living across the region. It found that Latinos in Utah have the highest median income in the Mountain States Region, but experience challenges in areas like education and childhood poverty.

"We actually have the largest gap in terms of the poverty rate for children between Utahns in general, and the Hispanic Latino population," said Utah Foundation's research director Shawn Teigen.

As a whole, Utah has the lowest childhood poverty rate in the region at 9%, according to the report. But Latino children in Utah experience poverty at a rate more than double the statewide average.

"It's 21-percent," Teigen said. "It's basically over one out of every five kids is living in poverty in Utah."

The report found that Latinos in Utah have the highest median income in the region, bringing in more than $61,000 annually, but Utahns as a whole make nearly 25% more a year.

"You're going to see a difference between Utahns in general and the Hispanic Latino population in part because of the large proportion of immigrant families," Teigen added.

Nearly 36% of the state's Latino population was born outside of the U.S., and nearly half are 25-years-old or younger.

The report highlights that one of the biggest challenges Utah's Latino population faces is in educational attainment.

"These are trends that we have been observing quite some time," said Antonella Packard, education manager at the Suazo Business Center.

Utah Foundation's data shows that one-third of Latinos in Utah do not have a high school diploma, compared to only 6% of Utahns in general. Packard said the impacts of the pandemic on education will most likely amplify those numbers.

"Because a lot of this stuff went to online learning, and whether we admit it or not there is a digital divide," Packard added. "Therefore, that affects educational outcomes."

According to the report, 13% of Latinos in Utah do not have access to internet at home, 6% higher than the statewide average. Packard said access to digital devices in the home is one of the key factors driving the divide.

"Once those tools are given, we're seeing people really taking that information, taking those resources and really maximizing them," she said. "The thing is the access."

And although graduation rates among Latinos in the state continues to rise year-over-year—up 6% from 2015, and 2% from 2019—Packard said access to digital learning tools will continue to be a problem for the community moving forward.

"Hopefully this information will shine a light that there is a problem," Packard added. "First part of solving something is [identifying] that there is a problem, and then bringing in partners that are within those communities affected by what this report showed."

Teigen hopes the report will help inform policy decisions moving forward, which could begin to bridge the gaps in some of the areas studied in the report.