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The city’s Mexican population has increased nearly five times over the last 20 years, with almost half of all New Yorkers of Mexican origin under the age of 25. As the Mexican population shifts from immigrant adults to a larger share of young people born here, educational attainment levels are not keeping pace compared to other Latino groups. At the same time, Mexican immigrants work at high rates in the lowest paying jobs. When they start families, their children are more likely to grow up in poverty.
These are among the findings of a new Community Service Society (CSS) study, entitled “Young Mexican-Americans in New York City: Working More; Learning and Earning Less.” The report, which examines the challenges facing young Mexican immigrants and children born here to Mexican parents, found that nearly two-thirds of the city’s Mexican residents are living in low-income households. And more than a third of Mexican young people have challenges speaking English, with 14 percent not speaking English at all. Most alarming, Mexican children have the highest rates of poverty within the community of Mexicans living in the city.
"More than any other racial or ethnic group, Mexicans are highly concentrated in the lowest paying jobs. As a consequence, a large share of Mexican children who are born here are growing up in poverty and facing significant obstacles completing their education and giving themselves a chance to do better financially than their parents,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York.
In October 2010, CSS published a report examining school and labor force participation of young people of Hispanic background. This latest effort builds off the earlier report with a focus on Mexican youth. The Deutsche Bank of Americas Foundation (DBAF) conceived of and funded research for the report. Here are some of the key findings:
- Just 37 percent of Mexican young people are enrolled in school, including only 31 percent of young Mexican males.
- Nearly 60 percent of young Mexican men – and nearly half of young Mexican women – who are out of school lack a high school diploma.
- Young Mexican immigrants have very high rates of employment, but at the lowest paying jobs. Young Mexicans born in the U.S. work at rates similar to their peers.
- Foreign-born Mexican workers have the lowest median income of any group in the city as a result of their concentration in low-paying food services and housekeeping jobs.
- Eight out of ten Mexicans under the age of 16 live in households below 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($38,000 for a family of three). Nearly half are poor.
To improve educational and economic outcomes for the city’s Mexican youth the report recommends several policy interventions. They include targeting public assistance, food stamps and health support to neighborhoods with high concentrations of Mexican families; expansion of GED and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs for young people who have not obtained their high school diploma; increasing the state minimum wage; and, passage of the Paid Sick Time Act which would provide basic protections for low-wage workers.