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Hispanics are the fastest-growing, and with a mean age of 26.6 years, the youngest ethnic group in the United States. Hispanics also have recently become the largest minority group in the nation. Despite the great diversity within the Hispanic community, with individuals of many different origins and races, two-thirds of the Hispanic population are of Mexican descent.

Although some programs have proven successful at the state and local levels, nationwide, a persistent learning gap exists between white and Hispanic children, and many disparities exist between Hispanics and other racial and ethnic groups. Hispanic children represent 28% of children living in poverty and participate in early education programs less frequently than other racial or ethnic groups. Native-born Hispanics have a higher dropout rate than African American or white students. Furthermore, Hispanics attend overcrowded and underfunded public schools, with high concentrations of poverty, at much higher rates than white children.

Even though Hispanics have a long history in the United States, more than two-thirds of the Hispanic population are either immigrants or first-generation Americans. These students pose unique challenges to educators. Hispanic students comprise almost 77% of students enrolled in bilingual or ESL programs. Immigrant youth drop out in disproportionately high numbers, with more than half failing to ever enroll in a U.S. school. Those students that do enroll often drop out due to their lack of adequate English skills or the lure of the job market. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of first-generation Hispanics the children of immigrants is expected to grow rapidly in the early part of the 21st century, becoming the largest portion of the Hispanic population by 2020.

(It is important to note that while the U.S. Department of Education defines "first generation" as the children of immigrants, some studies, such as the Pew Hispanic Center's, The Rise of the Second Generation: Changing Patterns in Hispanic Population Growth, define the children of immigrants as "second generation" and the immigrants as "first generation." The Department of Education definition is used above.)

Reference Information

National Center for Education Statistics, Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities, July 2012

U.S. Census Bureau, The Hispanic Population: 2010: 2010 Census Briefs, May 2011.

National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2012, May, 2012.

Pew Hispanic Center, Now Largest Minority Group on Four-Year College Campuses: Hispanic Student Enrollments Reach New Highs in 2011, August, 2012.

Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics, High School Dropouts and the GED, May 2010.

Pew Hispanic Center, 24% Growth from 2009-2010: Hispanic College Enrollment Spikes, Narrowing Gaps with Other Groups, August, 2011.

National Center for Education Statistics, Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972-2009 October, 2011.


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