Memo: Hispanics Have Made Significant Economic Gains in Recent Years

A new study by the Pew Hispanic Center released this week has a rather dramatic finding – 81% of Hispanics in the US believe their family’s financial situation will improve this year (up from 67% in 2008). 40% say their personal finances are in “excellent” or “good,” up from 23% in 2008. The rising and deep economic optimism found in the Hispanic community today can be explained by recent economic data which suggests the last few years have been particularly good ones for Hispanics in the US. Let’s look:

Unemployment Rate Plummeting – The Hispanic unemployment rate has dropped dramatically from its recession high of 13% to just 5.6% today (a net drop of 7.4 percentage points). This is only slightly above the national average of 4.7%. The Hispanic unemployment rate at the beginning of the first Obama term, January of 2009, was 10.1%. Millions of Hispanics are working today who weren’t a few years ago.

Wages Gains Accelerating – According to a new study by Dr. Rob Shapiro, in the 2013 and 2014, Hispanics saw average household income gains of over 3% in each year. These gains were higher than their African-American and white counterparts, and twice what this community experienced in the early years of the economic recovery. Millions of Hispanics are making more money today than they were a few years ago.

Uninsured Rate Dropping – In the last few years the Hispanic uninsured rate has fallen by more than 25%, from 41.8% to 30.5%. This translates into about 4 million Hispanics having gained coverage since the implementation of the ACA, or 7% of the entire Hispanic population in the US. Millions of Hispanics have health insurance that didn’t a few years ago. Millions more would have insurance if two of the states with the largest Hispanic populations, Florida and Texas, had taken advantage of the Medicaid expansion resources available under the ACA.

A few things to note about this data:

- The real economic gains of Hispanics in the US in recent years, and the rising optimism found in the Pew data, comes at the same time we’ve experienced a rise in anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic rhetoric in the US. -

- The data includes the 8m-9m undocumented immigrants in the US who are Hispanic (total Hispanic population is about 55m today).

In sum, despite the lack of legalization and rising anti-immigrant/Hispanic rhetoric in the US, Hispanic families in the US have made very significant economic gains in recent years. Depending on how one weights the data, it may be the case that Hispanics made more significant economic gains than any other demographic group in the 2nd Obama term.

Faced with a challenging political climate in the US, the Hispanic community has stood strong, worked hard and grown even more optimistic about their future. It is hard to imagine a more powerful repudiation of Donald Trump than the economic success and rising optimism of Hispanics across the US today.  


Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

As part my introduction to the NDN world, and in anticipation of our Friday event, Simon tasked me with reading Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million:  America in 2050.  You can imagine my excitement.  I mean, what's sexier than demography?  And yet Kotkin has a knack for making complex and data-heavy concepts accessible and - don't mock me - exciting. 

Kotkin begins with an introduction to America's current and forthcoming demographic shifts (in diversity of age, ethnicity, race and country of origin) and then delves into an unapologetically optimistic analysis of how those shifts -particularly America's youthfulness - will transform our shared future and allow America to maintain its place as a world leader.  On a local level, Kotkin explores migration within America, and examines how suburbs and city-centers will change to accommodate such growth, as well as the green technology critical to sustaining a population that needs to learn to do more with less.  That last bit might sound daunting, but here's Kotkin's main point, offered like a reassuring parent or partner:  we'll do what we need to do, as we've always done, and we'll be great.  We should be aware of the possible pitfalls, but we shouldn't worry.  In fact, we should step back and marvel at America's unlimited potential. 

Of particular note is how Kotkin's views defy the panic and paranoia of those who suggest that America grows at its own peril.  Kotkin views our growth and corresponding diversity as an asset that will "drive our economic resilience." In this way, The Next Hundred Million is the ultimate antidote to the far Right's assertion that Latinos and immigrants are changing America for the worse. 

If Kotkin's book is as spot-on as it seems, then I have seen a snapshot of the future, and I gotta say:  it looks pretty good.

NDN's Campaign to Stop Divisive Vitter-Bennett Amendment Makes Headlines

Leading civil rights groups joined NDN for a press conference on Tuesday to oppose the amendment proposed by Senators Vitter (R-LA) and Bennett (R-UT). If passed, their amendment would add an additional question to the census forms (which have already been printed) asking about one's legal status. Not only would this cost tax-payers millions of extra dollars but this amendment would discourage minority participation in the census and thus threaten the accuracy of this crucial decennil count. In his statement on the floor of the Senate, Senator Bennett essentially admitted that the data collected from his amendment would influence the reapportionment process. To use any number other than the number of "whole persons" residing in a state when reapportioning powering in the House of Representatives is in clear violation of the text and legislative intent of 14th Amendment.

But we aren't the only one's concerned with Sens. Vitter and Bennett's attempt to stop the census. Our campaign against their amendment is making headlines. Check out some of the stories below:

Battle Over Census Becoming Fight Over Illegal Immigration, Politics Daily, 10/22/09.

How to Waste Money and Ruin the Census, The New York Times, 10/20/09.

Critics Take Aim at Pending Spending Bills, Congress Daily, 10/20.09.

Should the Census Count Illegal Immigrants?, The Atlantic Wire, 10/20/09.

Proposed Census Change Would Reveal Undocumented Immigrants, Scripps-Howard Foundation Wire, 10/20/09.

Eye Opener: Citizenship and the Census, 10/16/2009. Washington Post

Obama Administration Dodges Political Problem as Census Amendment Moved to Back Burner, Talking Points Memo, 10/14/09

Republican Senators Vitter, Bennett Attempt To Force Census To Ask Immigration Status, 10/8/09, Talking Points Memo.

Let’s NOT Take A Census!, 10/8/09, The Census Project Blog.

Counting Immigrants Key for Communities
, The New Republic, 9/25/09.

Census chief: Bennett's immigration bill not practical, 9/23/09, Salt Lake Tribune.

Our Unconstitutional Census, 8/9/09, Wall Street Journal.

10/20 Press Conference: Leading Civil Rights Groups Join NDN to Oppose Divisive Vitter-Bennett Amendment

Tomorrow: Tuesday, October 20th at 11 am in Dirksen 406, the nation's leading civil rights groups will join NDN for a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce their opposition to the divisive Vitter-Bennett Amendment aimed at undermining the 2010 Census. The Amendment, proposed by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Robert Bennett (R-UT), seeks to add an 11th question to the census forms (which have already been printed) that would discourage minority populations from participating in the census and thus threaten the accuracy of the count.

In his letter to Senators urging them to vote "no" on the proposed Amendment, NDN President Simon Rosenberg wrote, 

While the  Vitter-Bennett Amendment may appear innocent, its intent and practical effect on the  census and reapportionment process is not. If enacted the Amendment would almost certainly disrupt an orderly census count next year, eventually found to be unconstitutional, all the while start ing a highly divisive  conversation about race, the Civil War and the 14th Amendment in the  very first year of America's very first African-American President.

NDN joins the following organizations in denouncing the harmful Vitter-Bennett Amendment:

AAJC—Terry Ao, Director of the Census and Voting Programs
CAP – Angie Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy & Advocacy
Demos – Tova Wang, Senior Fellow
HNBA – Liz Lopez, Vice President for External Affairs
LCCR – Wade Henderson, President
LDF – Kristen Clarke, Co-Director Political Participation Project
LULAC – Brent Wilkes, Executive Director
MALDEF – Claudine Karasik, Legislative Staff Attorney
NALEO – Gloria Montano Greene, Director, Washington, DC Office
PFAW – Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for Policy and Program

For more information on the census, reapportionment, and this dangerous Amendment, check out NDN's backgrounder on the issue.

NDN Backgrounder: Census 2010, Immigration Status and Reapportionment

As the US Senate gears up to vote on Vitter-Bennett SA 2644, NDN offers commentary and information regarding this pernicious amendment.  

Earlier this year, several Republican senators expressed outrage over the perception that the new White House Administration was playing politics with the Census. The outrage was so deep that US Senator Judd Gregg withdrew his nomination as US Secretary of Commerce citing concerns over this perception to politicize the Census. Now these very same Republican Senators are resorting to the very same techniques they decried earlier this year. This amendment only serve serves to politicize and delegitimize what is expected to be a very nonpartisan process. The result could cost billions of dollars, and will complicate efforts to inform and prepare state and local governments for the changing demography and characteristics of this nation.

From the NDN Blog:

Senators Bennett, Vitter Escalate Their Attack on the Census, Reapportionment, 10/10/2009. Simon Rosenberg summarizes the proposed attempt by Senators Vitter and Bennett to use this amendment as way to racially charge the debate on Census.

The Latest Attack on the Census is an Attack on All of Us, 10/01/2009. Robert Shapiro addresses the importance of an accurate Census, and the impacts of the Vitter-Bennett amendment.

GOP Senator Introduces Bill to Bar Undocumented Immigrants from Reapportionment Process, 9/25/2009. Simon Rosenberg writes about the impact of the Bennett amendment noting that Senator Bennett’s  motives are purely political.

The Coming Battle Over the Census
, 8/10/2009. Simon Rosenberg discusses the emerging battle that conservatives will mount to politicize the Census.

Other Media Sources:

Republican Senators Vitter, Bennett Attempt To Force Census To Ask Immigration Status, 10/8/09, Talking Points Memo.

Census chief: Bennett's immigration bill not practical, 9/23/09, Salt Lake Tribune.

Let’s NOT Take A Census!, 10/8/09, The Census Project Blog.

Our Unconstitutional Census, 8/9/09, The Wall Street Journal.

Senators Bennett, Vitter Escalate Their Attack on the Census, Reapportionment

Christina Bellantoni at Talking Points Memo has a must read piece up on the new Bennett Vitter Census Amendment.   It includes a must watch video of Senator Bennett making the case for his amendment. 

Whatever one thinks of the idea of adding another question to the census short form at this very late point in the process, focus must be put on Bennett's stated intent - to count the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. so as to deny their use in the upcoming, every ten year reapportionment process. 

This new Bennett led effort seems to be, among many other things, a direct legal and political assault on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution:

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed

The 14th Amendment was designed, of course, to correct the infamous "three-fifths" clause in the original Constitution, which relegated a class of people to be something much less than the rest of us.  It is extraordinary that in the first year of the Presidency of the first African-American President the Senate is seriously considering an amendment which so directly challenges the integrity of the 140 year old legal framework which enabled, for example, Michelle Obama's family to move from slave, to free, and today, to the White House.

There are rumors afoot today that some Democratic Senators and moderate Republicans are considering joining with Bennett and Vitter on this amendment next week, giving them enough votes to pass it.  Before they do they and their staffs better do their homework, and come to a better understanding of the real intent behind this seemingly innocent legislation - to attack the legal framework of the modern civil rights era, to discourage immigrants from participating in the census itself, and to launch a divisive and racially charged campaign over who we are today, and who are becoming.

As I wrote in an essay a few weeks ago, Waking Up to the Coming Battle over the Census, the Republican assault on the census and reapportionment will not end next week even if the Bennett-Vitter Amendment is voted down.  This is going to be a titantic battle, next year and throughout the two year long reapportionment process.  My essay looks at a recent WSJ op-ed which layed out the logic of this fight, which, included, incredibly a reference to the intent of the original Constitution, which of course had been, let us say, not so good on these matters of race and has needed some significant improving.  Our own Rob Shapiro, who helped oversee the preperation of the last census, also weighed in last week with his own take on all this.

Those who have a role in ensuring a fair and accurate census and reapportionment need to begin engaging now in this fight, and not allow the other side to score early and significant victories before every one has their teams and plans together.  The battle has been joined, and it is time to jump in, hard.   

One of the best ways of course the nation has to neutralize this effort will be to pass immigration reform next year, giving the undocumenteds legal status, and thus rendering Bennett, Vitter and all their soon to be vociferous allies mute.

Here's the video of Senator Bennett making his case:

The Latest Attack on the Census is an Attack on All of Us

The latest fight over the Decennial Census is part of a 30 years' war over efforts to count everyone in America, including immigrants, minorities and poor people.  It's become an ongoing war, because the results carry such large consequences.  The Constitution mandates a census every decade, because the founders saw a regular, state-by-state population count as the best way to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives.  Beyond that, as Washington's role has expanded, the Census provides the data used to distribute a growing slice of federal spending among the states and their cities and counties - nearly $400 billion worth these days - and to build the baselines and updates used to evaluate the effectiveness of hundreds of federal programs. 

Until this year, the fights over the Decennial Census have focused not on who should be counted - the answer has always been everyone - but on how hard the government should try to find the one to two percent of us who are often overlooked.   It matters, because people who don't return their Census forms and then avoid Census workers trying to follow up - the Bureau calls them the "undercounted" - are predominantly poor minorities, recent immigrants, and American Indians.  So, they're not distributed randomly across the states but rather concentrated in certain places - and this undercount costs those places part of their fair share of federal funds for roads, schools, medical care, parks and other things based on population.  If the count were accurate, a number of big cities and states might be a little less financially strapped. 

I follow all of this pretty closely, because as Under Secretary of Commerce in the late 1990s, I oversaw the Census Bureau planning and operations for the 2000 Census.  The fight that time was over our plans to use a huge sample - some 1 million households - to find out exactly where and to what extent the undercounts happen, and then use that information to adjust the head count and make the final results more accurate.  That was just what the National Academy of Sciences had recommended for the 1990 Census, which the first Bush White House rejected.  When the undercount grew worse that time, the Academy came back with the same recommendation for 2000.  This time, the Clinton administration approved, and the Census Bureau did it.  But between the counting and the reporting, George W. Bush took office.  The sample was discarded, and the undercount grew even worse. 

The opposition to sampling in 2000 certainly seemed to be motivated by purely political concerns that counting all minorities would cost them federal funding or even seats in Congress.  But that opposition wasn't completely shameless: They balanced their attacks on sampling with support for spending as much as we asked for to assemble the largest workforce of census counters in history and mount major advertising and civic outreach campaigns targeted to communities with large undercounts. 

It will be worse this time.  The 2010 Census planned by the Bush administration has no sample, and it's too late now for the Obama team to design and carry out one in time.  It's also almost certain that the undercount will be even larger: The numbers of recent immigrants are way up, and the advertising campaigns aimed at minorities and the outreach to civic groups have been scaled back. 

But now it's getting truly ugly.  Senator Bob Bennett, backed by the Wall Street Journal and right-wing cable TV and radio, has proposed to use the census to identify undocumented people, who would then be deliberately excluded from the count.   In more than two centuries of the U.S. Census, it has always counted whoever is physically here - "inhabitants" in the term used in the first census of 1790 - regardless of their citizenship or other legal status.  One reason is that everyone is protected by the law, so everyone should be counted in determining how many seats a state gets to write those laws.  And whether or not someone has citizenship or residency papers, they still put claims on public services which the funding for those services should reflect.    

The political and social implications of Bennett's radical idea are enormous.  California, for example, may have as many as 4 or 5 million undocumented inhabitants - exclude them and the state could lose perhaps a half-dozen seats in Congress and tens of billions of dollars in federal funds.  Texas and other states with large Hispanic populations would lose seats and funding as well.

This change also could destroy the Census process, with incalculable costs for everyone.   The Census doesn't collect any information beyond people's demographic characteristics - no names or data about their legal circumstances - and it's so fastidious about people's confidentiality that it won't share any specific data with police, the FBI, or anybody.  In 2000, for example, a form came back with a threat against the president scrawled across it - and the Census Bureau refused Secret Service demands to share the address.  (It turned out to not matter, since the respondent was safely tucked away in a state prison.)  The Bureau also knows that if the census process goes beyond demographics, tens of millions of people may assume that their information might be turned over to other parts of government, and the undercount would skyrocket.  People would begin to worry that the IRS might compare the number of people counted in a household against the number of dependents claimed,  or that child welfare services might discover that somebody is taking care of a cousin's child and disapprove of it, or, most obviously, that the Immigration and Naturalization Service would come knocking. 

The Census is the world's largest scientific exercise and provides the basis not only to allocate federal funds and seats in Congress, but also to evaluate the effectiveness of countless federal, state and local programs.  All of that would be at risk if the latest expression of anti-immigrant bias were ever to take hold of the decennial Census.

GOP Senator Introduces Bill to Bar Undocumented Immigrants from Reapportionment Process

In an essay yesterday (which is still running on the front page of the Huffington Post), Waking Up To the Coming Battle Over the Census, I talked about the very real possibility that the national Republican Party will mount a sustained effort to undermine the Census next year because of the Constitutional requirement for it to count all people, including undocumented immigrants.  One could easily imagine Rep. Joe Wilson, for example, leading this effort.

Yesterday we came across this story from the Salt Lake Tribune, which reports on a new bill just introduced in the United States Senate by Sen. Bob Bennett which attempts to identify the undocumented population and bar them from contributing to the reapportionment process.   From the news article:

Bennett, a Utah Republican who faces a tough re-election effort, introduced a bill last week that would add an 11th question to the Census forms asking if the person is a citizen or legal resident. He wants to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count used to apportion seats in the U.S. House.

"It does not make any sense for congressional seats and the Electoral College to be determined by a process that unfairly provides the advantage to those communities with high illegal populations," Bennett said in announcing his legislation.

The question Bennett raises, and is raised by the authors in the Wall Street Journal in my post yesterday, is should the undocumenteds be counted?  The 14th Amendment says:

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed

The interpretation of this question for these many years is that, yes, everyone must be counted.  And certainly the 2010 Census is designed to do just that.  But given how the national Republican Party played politics (successfully by the way) with the Census and reapportionment process the last two times the nation went through this, we should expect another run this time too.  And my guess is that despite the Constitutional requirement to count everyone most/many Americans would agree with Senator Bennett - why should places like Arizona gain at others expense through the presence of what will clearly be labeled "illegals?"

Which is why this debate could end up being so tough for those elected officials, including the President, required to defend the constitutionality of the current census strategy - because for many it will seem like it "makes no sense."

So how to avoid what could become a very ugly and divisive fight, pitting region against region, community against community, immigrants vs native born?

Pass comprehensive immigration reform prior to the start of the census count, making the "illegals" legal and finally fixing the broken immigration system once and for all.

Open to other ideas too.  Feel free to share 'em.  Anxious to hear your thoughts on this.


Waking Up To the Coming Battle Over the Census

Tonight's reports of the murder of a US Census worker will bring national attention to the emerging politics of the Census count, something that we've long been worried about at NDN. 

In August I posted the following about a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed which signaled the beginning of a new campaign by the right to disrupt the vital Census count next year: 

For many months now NDN has been making the case that inevitably the right would make a spirited case to prevent the Census, to be conducted next year, from counting undocumented immigrants, or at least using their numbers to influence reapportionment or the allocation of resources by the government (the primary purpose of the every ten year count).

Today the Wall Street Journal is running a well-articulated early salvo in this coming battle by John S. Baker and Elliot Stonecipher.  It starts off......

"Next year’s census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won’t.

Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country—including large numbers who are here illegally. The result will unconstitutionally increase the number of representatives in some states and deprive some other states of their rightful political representation. Citizens of “loser” states should be outraged. Yet few are even aware of what’s going on.

In 1790, the first Census Act provided that the enumeration of that year would count “inhabitants” and “distinguish” various subgroups by age, sex, status as free persons, etc. Inhabitant was a term with a well-defined meaning that encompassed, as the Oxford English Dictionary expressed it, one who “is a bona fide member of a State, subject to all the requisitions of its laws, and entitled to all the privileges which they confer.”

Thus early census questionnaires generally asked a question that got at the issue of citizenship or permanent resident status, e.g., “what state or foreign country were you born in?” or whether an individual who said he was foreign-born was naturalized. Over the years, however, Congress and the Census Bureau have added inquiries that have little or nothing to do with census’s constitutional purpose.

By 1980 there were two census forms. The shorter form went to every person physically present in the country and was used to establish congressional apportionment. It had no question pertaining to an individual’s citizenship or legal status as a resident. The longer form gathered various kinds of socioeconomic information including citizenship status, but it went only to a sample of U.S. households. That pattern was repeated for the 1990 and 2000 censuses.

The 2010 census will use only the short form. The long form has been replaced by the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Dr. Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s Immigration Statistics Staff, told us in a recent interview that the 2010 census short form does not ask about citizenship because “Congress has not asked us to do that.”

Because the census (since at least 1980) has not distinguished citizens and permanent, legal residents from individuals here illegally, the basis for apportionment of House seats has been skewed. According to the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data (2007), states with a significant net gain in population by inclusion of noncitizens include Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas. (There are tiny net gains for Hawaii and Massachusetts.)

This makes a real difference. Here’s why:

According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in its population of 36,264,467. Based on our round-number projection of a decade-end population in that state of 37,000,000 (including 5,750,000 noncitizens), California would have 57 members in the newly reapportioned U.S. House of Representatives.

However, with noncitizens not included for purposes of reapportionment, California would have 48 House seats (based on an estimated 308 million total population in 2010 with 283 million citizens, or 650,000 citizens per House seat). Using a similar projection, Texas would have 38 House members with noncitizens included. With only citizens counted, it would be entitled to 34 members."

....You get the idea. 

We've been arguing, aggressively, that it is important for the Obama Administration to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform by March of 2010 (the count begins in April, 2010) in order to avoid what could become a very nasty debate indeed - in the middle of a very important election - about who exactly is an American.   To me the need to conduct a clean and accurate census, so essential to effective governance of the nation, is one of the most powerful reasons why immigration reform cannot wait till 2011, as some have suggested.

In launching DropDobbs.com along with 14 other groups this past week, I cited my own personal weariness with the summer's angry talk and the still all too virulent politics of intolerance.  We have long believed the debate over the Census would unleash the reactionary hounds, so to speak, and rather than letting them gain the upper hand in a debate over who we are and who we are becoming, it is essential now for reasonable people of both parties to stand, together, to prevent an angry few to hijack what is, in this case, a process so integral to the very functioning of our democracy. 

Next year is shaping up to be an extraordinary one in US history.

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