1 TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND HISPANICS: HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN ADVANCE LATINO INTERESTS VIA EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE AND THE ECONOMY
2 TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND HISPANICS: How Technology can Advance Latino Interests via Education, Health Care and the Economy March 2015
3 INTRODUCTION Telecommunications technology isn t just about AM- FM radio and TV anymore, and it hasn t been for a long time. With the arrival of the Internet, satellite radio, digital television and other channels of communication, the telecommunications industry has become a central matter of concern in the daily lives of ordinary citizens. Remarkably, for example, 4 million citizens sent comments (Obama, 2015) to the FCC in anticipation of its February 2015 ruling that the Internet will be regulated as a public utility, not unlike electricity and gas. Although not everyone agrees with the FCC s ruling, including many national organizations that advocate on behalf of Hispanic interests (Hispanic Telecommunications & Technology Partnership, 2015), the outpouring of public opinion on the subject is noteworthy. It is an indication of the importance that telecommunications technology has achieved. The industry is especially important for Hispanics, the largest, fastest growing ethnic minority group in the United States, whose influence can be felt in nearly every aspect of American culture, from food to fashion to the performing and fine arts. Hispanic Americans, who now number nearly 54
4 million (American Fact Finder, 2015), have also become major players on the political scene, as voters elect Latino mayors, governors and members of congress across the country from both major political parties. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Sonya Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, making her the first Hispanic associate justice and only the third woman. It is now conventional wisdom that political candidates running in statewide elections must have substantial support from the Hispanic community if they hope to win. U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, from Florida and Texas respectively, are frequently mentioned as potential candidates for the Republican Party s nomination for president. But despite their growing numbers and influence, Hispanics continue to lag behind other groups in key areas that diminish the impact they could otherwise have. An important aspect of this is represented by the degree to which they have access to and are affected by telecommunications industry technology. This report examines the issue through three vital lenses: education, health care and the economy. BACKGROUND It is important to understand who Hispanics are. They may be of any race and their family roots may be in a variety of Spanish speaking countries. Hispanics of Mexican heritage comprise the largest group in the United States by far, at 64%. They are followed by Puerto Ricans, at 9.4%, Salvadorans at 3.8%, Cubans at 3.7%, Dominicans at 3.1%, Guatemalans at 2.3% and all others comprising 13.7%. The largest number of Hispanics is in California, with a population of 14.7 million; the largest percentage in any state is New Mexico, at 47.3% of the state s population (Office of Minority Health & Health Equity, 2015). Educational attainment is an area in which Hispanics continue to be challenged. In 2012, Hispanic youths dropped out of school without obtaining a diploma at a rate of 6.7%,
5 exceeding the dropout rate for African Americans, at 5.6%; non-hispanic Whites at 3.4% and Asians, whose dropout rate was just 1.3%. At the college level, the situation is similar. While 30.2% of non-hispanic Whites have four-year college degrees and 18.8% of Blacks have attained the degree, Hispanics trail behind with 13.9% (Brown & Patten, 2014). The high secondary school dropout rate and the low level of college completion contribute to an employment distribution for Hispanics that, while varied, is concentrated in the lower income range. While 15.2% of Asians and 15% of non-hispanic Whites and 8.7% of African Americans work in management and business, just 7.3% of Hispanics are represented there. On the other hand, for example, Hispanics lead in cleaning and maintenance, at 9.1%, while just 5.5% of African Americans, 3.2% of Whites and 2.1% of Asians are employed in those jobs (Brown & Patten, 2014). All honest work is honorable and deserving of respect, yet the distribution of types of labor along ethnic lines cannot be ignored. It should be noted, too, that the high percentage of Hispanics in low-paying fields is at least in part affected by the large number of foreign-born Latinos included in that statistic, some of whom have English-language or education deficiencies, made more difficult in some cases by fears about their immigration status. Regardless of the causes, they remain as factors with which the community must contend. THE TECHNOLOGY FACTOR: WHAT IT MEANS FOR HISPANICS The world has become dependent upon technology in ways that seemed like science fiction just a few decades ago. Today, however, people routinely ask questions of their smartphones and get oral responses. Nearly a third of the states have enacted laws (AAA, 2015) that regulate how, or if, earphones can be worn by drivers, as streaming audio, video or recorded data travel with drivers and their passengers wherever they go. Cable television with its hundreds of channels and video on demand is already perceived in some quarters as old school, as newer players, such as Netflix and others mount serious challenges for audience via programming delivered over the Internet. A new term, cord cutters, has entered the language to describe consumers who have rejected subscription television in favor of other technologies. Social media connect Americans to each other and to other people and sources of
6 information around the globe, instantly and with societal implications that are not yet fully understood. The lives of most Americans are affected by technology in ways that they may not immediately recognize, but which can have significant impact on the quality of life for themselves and for their families. For Hispanics, however, these circumstances can be dramatic, and they most often present through education, health care and the economy. Education The oldest members of the Baby Boom generation will start turning 70 this year, which makes them old enough to have experienced elementary and secondary education in a form relatively unchanged from before the turn of the 20 th century. It took place in traditional classrooms, involved a great deal of memorization, notes were taken by hand with a pen or pencil and high school homework assignments were prepared using a manual typewriter. Teachers stood in front of blackboards, using chalk and dusty erasers to make their points. Although blackboards still survive in some classrooms, and though pens and pencils are not entirely alien in today s schools, the environment, the pace and tools of contemporary education have radically changed. Many of today s students learn in a technology-driven space. They have never known a world without smartphones, PCs and Macs, and the slogan There s an app for that is a fact of life, and not merely a marketing message. In fact, communications technology, coupled with cultural and economic societal changes, has begun to push education into previously unexplored territories with important ramifications for students and their parents. For-profit colleges and universities such as the University of Phoenix, among others, as well as private nonprofit institutions such as Southern New Hampshire University, or state schools like University of Maryland University College and Arizona State University have become ubiquitous in broadcast advertising, touting their online degree programs many of them aimed at working adults. Similarly, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are drawing millions of students worldwide to continuing-education classes taught entirely online by some of the leading professors in their fields. MOOCs are still a new phenomenon, but they are having a significant impact on higher education (Newman & Oh, 2014). Traditional colleges and universities across the country, public and private, large and small, have begun to embrace online education by offering courses via the Internet or in so-called hybrid, or flipped classes that combine online coursework with traditional classroom interactions with the professor (Jarrett, 2013). One intriguing manifestation of the role of technology in education at the elementary and secondary levels is the rise in homeschooling. In the school year, just 3.4% of children 5-17 years old were homeschooled (15% of whom were Hispanic), but that represents a significant increase over 1999, when 1.7% of children were homeschooled (Noel, Stark, & Redford, 2013). Parents choose homeschooling for many reasons, but a study conducted for the National Center for Education Statistics (Noel, Stark & Redford, 2013) shows that the most cited reason by far, 91%, was dissatisfaction with the
7 traditional school environment. For such parents, the Internet provides ready access to government, commercial and nonprofit resources for homeschooling. Even families whose children attend traditional and charter public schools or private schools, use of the Internet for communication between parents and teachers has become routine. In addition, students use the Web to conduct research and to turn in homework assignments and to receive critiques from their teachers. Perhaps one of the most telling markers of the how the education process is being changed by telecommunications advances is the threat the Internet now poses to an institution that is as much cultural as it is practical snow-day vacations from school. For generations of schoolchildren, and their teachers, the occasional day off in the depth of winter because of roads made dangerous by snow and ice is a tradition. As weather patterns have changed, and as state and municipal budgets have grown tighter, increasing numbers of school districts have begun to investigate the possibility of eliminating snow days by conducting online classes during bad weather (The Associated Press, 2011). All that is needed is a computer and a fast, reliable connection to the Internet. The assumption of such connectivity has important implications for all American families, but especially for Hispanic families. A Pew Hispanic Center survey (Lopez, Gonzalez- Barrera, & Patten, 2013) has shown a link between income, education and computer ownership to use of the Internet among Latinos. Ninety-five percent of families with annual incomes of $50,000 or higher report going online at least occasionally, compared with 71% of those with annual incomes of less than $30,000, according to the study. Similarly, the study reports that 91% of Latinos with some college or more use the Internet at least occasionally, compared with 58% of those with less than a high school diploma. When it comes to computer ownership, 95% of Hispanic families with incomes of $50,000 or more own computers, compared to 63% of those with incomes of $30,000 or less. The gap also correlates with educational attainment: 89% of those with at least some college own computers, but just 51% of those with less than a high school diploma own computers. Clearly, income and education are key indicators of the extent to which individuals and families are digitally engaged, and while nearly all Hispanic families who earn more than $50,000 a year and have at least some college education own computers and go online frequently, Latinos as a group lag behind Asians and non-hispanic Whites in household income: $67,065 for Asians and $58,270 for Whites, compared to $40,963 for Hispanics. Only African Americans had a lower median household income, at $34,598 (DeNavas-Walt & Proctor, 2014). Hispanics also lag behind in educational attainment, with a college graduation rate of 13.9%, compared to 52.4% for Asians, 30.3% for Whites and 19.8% for African Americans (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). In each of the two critical indicators of digital engagement income and education Hispanics are behind and thus poorly positioned to take advantage of educational opportunities that lead to occupational opportunities for themselves and for their children. The connection between income and education to full engagement with educational opportunity via the increasingly important digital pathways cannot be underestimated.
8 Health Care As is the case for all Americans, access to quality, affordable health care is essential to securing their families futures. However, the need is especially great for Hispanics, due to their tendency toward obesity and related problems. For example, 38% of Hispanics over the age of 18 are obese, compared with 33.9% of non-hispanic Whites, and 12.1% have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 7.3% of non- Hispanic Whites. Indeed, Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to die from diabetes than non-hispanic Whites (Office of Minority Health, 2014). In spite of these and other health problems, many of which require the care of a physician, the health care insurance picture for Hispanics is not good. In fact, the percentage of Hispanics without health insurance is the highest of any other ethnic group. While 11.1% of non-hispanic Whites were without health insurance in 2012, followed by Asians at 15.1% and African Americans at 19%, the percentage of Hispanics was a significantly higher 29.1% (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2013). One reason for the great disparity between the level of Hispanics health care coverage and that of other ethnic groups is that many Latinos tend to work in low-paying jobs that do not offer health care. Another reason is the barrier presented by the fear and uncertainty about providing information to obtain Medicaid or to qualify for other coverage under the Affordable Care Act, due to their own or to family members immigration status. As noted by Scott D. Rhodes, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and lead author of a recent study in North Carolina: Our findings suggest that immigration enforcement policies negatively affect the health of immigrant Hispanics, including those with and without documentation (Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, 2014). Although the Obama administration has sought to assure Hispanics and others concerned about immigration policy and enforcement that signing up for the Affordable Care Act is not linked to a threat of deportation (HHS.gov, 2014), the fear remains a barrier. Their concerns have been exacerbated by a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that temporarily blocked President Obama s executive order that would have saved as many as 5 million people from deportation (Lozano, 2015). The ruling gave a coalition of 26 states time to prepare a lawsuit that would seek to permanently overturn the president s executive order. Regardless of the eventual outcome of this particular case, the action served to undermine the confidence of many Hispanics in institutions that could help. As is the case with educational opportunity, effective delivery of health care is tied to income and access to telecommunications services. Previously cited statistics showing the correlation of income to computer ownership and use among Hispanics and the impact on educational achievement also apply here. Simply put, better-educated individuals earn more money and are more likely to have a computer in the home, which makes it easier to access health services and related information online.
9 Economy Most Americans including Hispanic Americans experience the national economy in individual and highly personal ways, such as shopping, looking for (or keeping) a job or managing personal financial accounts. Routine activities such as these are inextricably tied to a vital telecommunications industry and reliable individual access to the Internet; the result has been that the technology has turned whole industries on their collective head. It is difficult to overestimate the degree to which the telecommunications industry impacts daily life. To reach the position it occupies today, the industry has developed along lines that are radically different from what they might have been in the absence of the Web, which turned 25 years old last year, as noted by a Pew Research Center report (Fox & Rainie, Internet, Science & Tech, 2014). Among its findings, the study points out that 68% of adults connect to the Internet via smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices. E-shopping When it comes to shopping, Hispanics are a critical element in the national economy. A Nielsen Company study projected that Hispanics buying power would be $1.5 trillion by 2015 (The Nielsen Company, 2012). But it s online shopping in particular that requires powerful telecommunications technology and which points the way to the future. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that overall retail shopping online reached $79,567 billion for the fourth quarter of 2014, or 6.7% of total retail sales, a 14.6% increase over the same period in Online sales were nearly $304 billion for the year (Bucchioni, Liu, & Weidenhamer, 2015). Online retailing giant Amazon alone had sales of $88.99 billion in 2014 (MarketWatch.com, 2015). And, a recent trend toward opening brick-and-mortar locations by online retailers like Amazon or Chico s Boston Proper notwithstanding (Gustafson, 2014), e-commerce has become a fixture in the American marketplace. Virtually any product or service is available for delivery with the click of a mouse, in many cases overnight. An important way in which telecommunications technology has changed shopping is the way that consumers comparison-shop. A recent federal government study shows that 44% of smartphone users have comparison-shopped while in a retail store and that an astounding 68% of them changed where they made the purchase as a result of the information they found (Federal Reserve Board, 2014). Hispanics have especially embraced online shopping 21% higher rate than the general population according to an Experian Marketing Services survey. The survey also notes that 54% of Hispanic smartphone users visit a shopping site during a typical month (Sass, 2013) Employment If telecommunications technology has wrought sweeping change on the retail industry, it has truly transformed the job market. Whether a job applicant is seeking bluecollar employment or vying for a managerial position, doing it successfully without going online is rare. In most cases, visiting a company s website is often the first step, to learn about
10 opportunities or even to complete an application. The process has become so automated that résumés are often reviewed by digital gatekeepers, and applicants may be rejected or moved forward for further consideration without human involvement. This fact of modern life underscores the critical importance of access to telecommunications technology: no computer with Internet access, no job. For Hispanics especially, the importance of not having unnecessary impediments to the job market is crucial. Latinos unemployment rate has been crippling since 2008, when the recession pushed their unemployment rate to 9.5%, surpassed in that year only by the 11.5% rate experienced by African Americans (Kochhar, 2009). In 2015, the unemployment rate for Hispanics has improved with the rest of the U.S. population. However, the 5.7% rate for the general population is still exceeded by the 6.7% rate for Hispanics (Oleaga, 2015). Banking Banking is another area of the economy in which telecommunications technology has changed all the rules. Online banking and mobile banking in particular have become routine as smartphones and other cellular technologies have become ubiquitous. A federal government study finds that 87% of U.S. adults have a mobile phone, and that 61% of those mobile units are smartphones, which means they are Internet-enabled. A third of mobile phone owners used them to conduct online banking tasks during the 12-month period between December 2012 and December 2013 (Federal Reserve Board, 2014). Forty-one percent of Hispanics, African Americans and other minority groups conduct banking tasks using mobile technology, compared to 32% of non- Hispanic Whites (Fox, 51% of U.S. Adults Bank Online, 2013). In connection to banking, access to telecommunications technology is a critical factor for meaningful participation in the economy for Hispanics as a group. Although, Latinos lag behind the general population in some important areas, such as education, income and computers in the home, they are nearly on par with respect to smartphone ownership. Forty-nine percent of Latino adults own smartphones, compared to 50% of Blacks and 46% of non-hispanic Whites (Lopez, Gonzalez- Barrera, & Patten, 2013). This is important because a large percentage of Hispanics are underbanked or unbanked, meaning that they have limited to non-existent relationships with traditional banking institutions. While 20% of U.S. households were underbanked in 2013, the rate for Hispanics was significantly higher, at 28.5%. However, underbanked households, 32.4%, were more likely than fully banked households, 21.6%, to use mobile technology to complete banking tasks (Burhouse, et al., 2014).
11 MOVING FORWARD There is good news, and there is bad news for Hispanics when it comes to telecommunications technology and improving their circumstances with respect to education, health care and the economy. The good news is that as a group they are already deeply invested in the use of mobile technology, especially young Latinos. Although Hispanics remain seriously underbanked, for example, mobile technology has enabled them to derive more benefits from the banking system and to position them for greater future engagement. Two-thirds of young Latinos, age 18-29, own a smartphone (Lopez, Gonzalez-Barrera, & Patten, 2013). Similarly, smartphones and other mobile devices have afforded Hispanics greater access to jobs and health care information. They have also enabled parents to be more fully engaged with their children s education, for example, by giving them access to and text messaging with teachers. The bad news is that having a laptop or desktop computer with a fast broadband connection remains the best way to access online services and information and that having those things is correlated to higher income. Higher income is linked to better education, and better education remains a stumbling block for many Hispanics, despite improvements in recent years: the percentage of Hispanics acquiring a college education or more has risen from 4.5% in 1970 to 13.9% in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Further complicating this situation is the cloud of uncertainty that continues to hang over the heads of millions of Hispanics without legal immigration status, which limits either their or family members efforts to pursue educational opportunity and the expanded career options that would result from it. Congress lack of progress toward comprehensive immigration reform legislation also remains a barrier to pursuit of educational opportunities and the higher incomes that flow from them. Regardless of these problems, however, Hispanics have repeatedly demonstrated their capacity for overcoming obstacles.
12 CONCLUSION The future of the country is inextricably linked to fortunes of the telecommunications industry. It enables nearly every aspect of the national economy, and it plays a vital role in the everyday interactions of individual Americans and their families. This is especially true for Hispanics, for whom the embrace of mobile technology in particular has helped to create community, to open the way to improved health care, to set the stage for increased educational opportunity, to improve employment chances and to open avenues to financial services. To move forward, however, will require continued support from the telecommunications industry for Hispanics aspirations, along with movement in Washington toward comprehensive immigration reform. Those moves will accelerate Hispanics drive toward full participation in the nation s social, political and economic interests.
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