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The Pressing Issues


Many issues are on Hispanics’ minds, from education and employment to immigration and the dissolution of families. However, Hispanic’s primary concerns change dramatically from generation to generation—and their priorities depend on how long they have lived in the U.S.

What is the Single Most Pressing Challenge?

When asked to identify the “single most pressing challenge” for the Latino community, employment and education were at the top of most respondent’s list. Half of Hispanics say one of these two issues is the most pressing for their communities. They are nearly split on which one: 27% say employment and 24% identify education.

The issue with the third most “votes” is the break-up of Hispanic families; almost another one-quarter (22%) indicates this as the most pressing challenge. Women are more likely than men to say that family break-up is the most important issue, and Hispanics in the West are more likely than those in other regions to be most concerned about family dissolution. First-generation immigrants are more likely than others to identify education and employment as key issues.

In a separate query, respondents were asked to rank their level of concern about six specific issues. The Hispanic community faces the same economic and social challenges as other Americans, but these challenges are often exacerbated by language and culture differences that can alienate Hispanics from opportunities or solutions available to other groups. This study examined six social and economic issues. Overall, Hispanics show a moderate amount of concern for how these issues are impacting the Hispanic community: for all six issues, between 49% and 58% of Hispanics are “very concerned.”

Dropout rates of Hispanic youths generate the most concern, followed closely by unemployment (58% and 57% of Hispanics are “very concerned”). Health care (54%), immigration (53%), and housing (52%) are also very concerning to a majority of Hispanics. The break-up of Hispanic families is the lowest issue on the list by a slight margin, though almost half (49%) indicate they are very concerned about this factor.

The concern over dropouts is notable for a number of reasons—first, it is not a mainstream social issue in America; it doesn’t impact all other ethnic groups to the same degree it does Hispanics. Second, it is not part of the public discourse in the same way as “popular” issues like immigration or health care. For these reasons it is a bit unexpected for this issue to be of the highest concern, considering some of the other issues that were presented.

Who Is Concerned?

Family immigration history matters when it comes to concern about social issues. First- and second-generation Americans are more concerned about all of these issues, compared to third- and fourth- generation Americans.

Surprisingly, political ideology does not appear to drive different levels of concern over these issues. As a rule, liberal, conservative and moderate Hispanics share similar levels of concern over each issue, with the exception that liberal Hispanics are more concerned about health care than either conservative or moderate Hispanics.

Different age cohorts express differing levels of concern over social issues as well. Busters (ages 29-47) and Boomers (ages 48-66) tend to be more concerned about social issues in general, such as unemployment, health care, immigration, and housing. Millennials (18-28) are the least concerned age group. These differences are most likely due to life-stage. Boomers and Busters are more likely to have children at home or just leaving the home—they and their children are in positions where these issues may have a tremendous amount of impact on their lives. Millennials’ optimism may stem from the natural optimism that marks their generation, or it may be the unrealistic optimism and sense of invulnerability of youth.

Views on Immigration

To get a sense of Hispanics’ underlying attitudes toward immigration reform, the survey probed two different concepts tied to biblical responsibility. The first asked if Hispanics agreed or disagreed with the statement “we have a biblical responsibility to show hospitality to strangers and immigrants.” Overall, two-thirds of Hispanics (65%) said they agreed, with the number being even higher among Protestants (74%).

In the second instance, the survey inquired about whether “we have a biblical responsibility to follow the laws and rules of the government.” In all, 55% of Hispanics agreed, with the largest supporter of that perspective being Protestants (85%). It is clear the Hispanic community would favor the integration of these two ideals.

Conclusions

As much as the Hispanic community—similar to any minority community—has some social and cultural concerns that are unique, the broad strokes are very similar to the rest of the population: They are worried about a good education and good jobs. These concerns are more intense than concerns about social ills or immigration policy.

Overall, Hispanics seem to have a positive view of their lives and communities. Relatively low percentages are “very concerned” about each of the issues presented. Hispanics tend to see themselves as productive members of society who are improving their communities through their work and families.

To read more about the social views and concerns of Hispanic Americans, order a copy of the Hispanic America: Faith, Values & Priorities study.

Find out more about the survey and methodology.