Thursday, March 27, 2008

Report examines quality of life for Hispanics

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— A wide array of indicators point to a declining quality of life and standard of living for Hispanics in Connecticut, according to a new report.
The latest survey by the Center for Research and Public Policy measured views on housing, employment, educational and judicial systems, as well as the economic status of the state’s largest and fastest growing minority group.
The 800-person sample found affordable housing dropped significantly from 74.5 percent to 51.5 percent in five years, while respondents reporting they were better off today financially than two years ago declined from 68.1 percent in 2002 to 50.1 percent in 2007.
The report included 50 in-person, in-depth interviews with Hispanic youths, a survey of 200 Hispanic leaders, as well as a focus groups of individuals in three cities.
The material was commissioned and released by the state office of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.
Fernando Betancourt, executive director of the commission, said his biggest concerns were affordable housing, the cost of health care and the disconnect between the educational goals of students and the dropout reality.
Of students interviewed, 88 percent said they were very interested in attending college, but one-quarter of them suggested this goal was unaffordable.
Betancourt said statewide only 53 percent of Latina female high school students graduate, while 48 percent of their male counterparts obtain a diploma.
While some answers pointed to the success of education programs around health issues, such as a decline in smoking, a boost in mammograms and blood cholesterol checks, other indicators pointed to systemic problems, Betancourt said.
A total of 89 percent reported having a primary care physician, but 18.4 percent also said in the last year when they needed medication, they could not afford it. Betancourt said other findings indicate 40 percent of Latinos don’t have health insurance.
Less than half of the adults interviewed, 41.5 percent, gave the state’s judicial system a positive rating. While this was low, it was a big jump from the 22.4 percent who had a positive reaction in 2002.
Betancourt attributed this in part to the addition of translators in courts, but New Haven public defender Joseph Lopez said the bigger picture remains disturbing.
He said he sees many black and Hispanic inmates, but few Hispanic representatives among attorneys and judges. “I don’t see a lot of progress,” Lopez said.
Betancourt labeled the report “a call to action. By 2020, the majority of workers will be Hispanic. This is the time to invest in education, to make housing affordable.”

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