Water seeks its own level?
I strongly care about the entire Cuban-American community. The Cuban-Americans in desperately poor parts of Hialeah or Flagami are as important as Cuban Americans in Cocoplum. I've worked with Cuban*1 kids in Miami who attended "good" (parochial) schools but received poor education and didn’t aspire to much. (That was not a blanket indictment on parochial schools in Miami.) I think I can express how stifling the Miami mind set can be from sharing a true story.
From my work in college admissions and financial aid I have an arrangement with an Ivy League school for free, whereby I am basically allotted several spaces for students that othewise would probably not be admitted. This informal arrangement comes through my continued non-profit work. (Here is where I open myself to your charges of ethnocentrism and hypocrisy.) I made a point of recruiting Cuban American kids for these slots. I found it nearly impossible to get a kid. Even at this age, the kids and their families seemed to be afraid to exit it the clositered world of Cuban Miami. So why? Was life really better? Was the world outside Miami that hostile for Hispanics? This has led to numerous conversations. The latest was with an old freind that worked for a Cuban-American non-profit with offices in Miami.
He related to me some of the statistical info he had been working with recently in his grant writing. He also spoke of his frustration with dealing with grant writing in the Cuban American community in Miami because of a strong tendency among a certain element (whom I'll call the Heraldistas) to not want to reflect upon the persistent poverty among Cuban Americans or other Hispanics. This has been a topic for us for quite a while. I must admit he was more frustrated than me because, as my Mama always says, "water seeks its own level" (which for the metaphorically challenged, means that people aspire or settle to be what they are inside no matter the conditions.)
Why it's hard to address Cuban and Hispanic poverty in Miami
Are there too many forces working against a person who is trying to address the problem of poverty in the Cuban American community? Some on the right have a stake in promoting another example of the model minority myth. Many on the left (both in the U.S. and Cuba) use the myth to depict a monolithic community- racist, corrupt, cruel and powerful, fleeing a popular revolution only to dictate U.S. policy for their own mercenary ends. This has been fed all the more by certain (small) elements of the Cuban American community and a lazy MSM.
Sometime ago I had an interesting discussion with another esteemed blogger about what the some of the Cuban-American Census figures and their implications from an earlier posting. I must admit, I was somewhat dismissive, partially owning to my feeling that "their reality may suck but it ain't mine so why argue" principle, which is always is ugly and callous. It also ignores cruel and unfortunate vicissitudes that I have myself know too well.
But the facts are there
Revisting these statistics, it seems that some myths have a grain of accuracy and others do not. For example, the orignal entering, older group of Cuban immigrants were better educated, roughly at the level of their American contemporaries (of all backgrounds). Younger Cuban Americans are becoming less educated. It was also surprising to find that most Cuban Americans have been in the U.S. longer than other Hispanic groups.
Hialeah, the City of Progress
First let me share some statistics about Hialeah, the largest Cuban city outside of Havana and the most Cuban City in America: 49% adults (over 23) have a high school diploma; 29.6% of kids are in poverty (and three times as many under 150% of poverty level); 32% of kids proficient in reading in grade 4; 23% proficient in math grade 8; average home value $61,600.
Miami-Dade, County of Corruption
And here are some from Miami-Dade, county level.The median income for a household in the county was $33,900 (Beacon Council 2006). The per capita income for the county was $18,497. About 14.5% of families and 18.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.9% of those under age 18 and 18.9% of those age 65 or over. Hispanic Income levels in Miami are less than local White non-Hispanics but above Black non-Hispanics. Miami-Dade Hispanics are less prosperous than Hispanics nationwide.
Miami, City of Three Card Manny (Diaz)
As you all have heard by now, Miami is ine of the most Hispanic cities in America and has the largest percentage of foreign born Hispanics. Here is a report on Miami and what our government has wrought, from a well-known non-partisan policy group. What is interesting is that Miami's Hispanics have, almost across the board, the same statistical indicators of prosperity/poverty as average Miamians.
Notes about age, marriage status, citizenship, year of arrival to the U.S., Language preference.
Cubans are by far the oldest population, older than the overall population and older than the Anglo population. It has the highest proportion of married adults (and the second highest rate of divorced and widowed adults next to Dominicans.) Only Mexican Americans have more two parent households. Oddly enough 27.1% of Cubans are not citizens which is close to the Hispanic average of 29%. Also a striking oddity is that even though 46% of Cuban Americans have come to the U.S. after 1980, a greater percentage of Cuban Americans have been in the U.S. before 1970 (39%) which is at least three times greater than any other group, including Puerto Ricans. Cubans however tend to speak Spanish at home and not to speak English very well in comparison to Hispanics as a whole.
Below are statistics about Hispanics, in general, by country of origin, the average American and White non-Hispanics from the 2004 U.S. Census*2:
Adult of all Hispanic groups have a lower high school graduation rate (HSGR) and college graduation rate (CGR) than average Americans 84.4% and 24% and even more so than WNH (89.8% HSGR and 36.1% CGR). Cuban Americans adults graduate high school at 62.9%, trailing Puerto Ricans and South Americans in HSGR. Cuban Americans trail only South Americans among Hispanic groups in college graduation rates at 21%, but still considerably trail the overall and NWH averages. (Cubans 50 years old and over have a CGR of 24.1% while Cuban adults younger than 50 years old have 15.8% CGR.)
Cuban Americans have a strikingly low participation rate among both adult males at 62.4% and female 49.7%. This is the lowest rate of participation in the labor force among all adult Hispanics as well as the overall adult population and adult WNH at 79.6% male and 66.1% female. The Hispanic adult participation in the work force is roughly the same as the 72% male and 56% female overall rate.
Median family income among Cuban Americans is $42,600 is a close second among Hispanic groups (behind South Americans $42,800) but far fewer Cuban Americans work. The median among all American families is $49,600 and among WNH $56,900.
Median individual incomes among full time working Cuban Americans is highest among Hispanic groups at $31,500 for working males and $26,300 for working females. This is closely comparable to other Hispanic groups, exp, Puerto Ricans at $30,300 males and $25,600 females; and South Americans at $30,500 males and $24,200 females. The median American wage is $37,100 for males and $27,200 for females; the median WNH is $44,300 males and $35,300.
14.6% of Cuban Americans live in poverty (measured by income divided by individuals per household), less than other Hispanic groups, but roughly comparable to South Americans at 15%. Cuban Americans have fewer children per household, lowering rates of household poverty. However 19.9% of Cuban American elderly live in poverty that any other Hispanic groups except Puerto Rican elderly at 23.4%. 20% of Cuban Americans live in poverty compared with 12% of all Americans and 6% of WNH.
57% of Cuban Americans own their own home, highest among all Hispanic groups (followed by that mysterious Hispanic “other” group, at 50.8%). 45.7% of Hispanics own their own home. 66.2% of Americans and 73.8% of WNH own their own homes.
*1 Please forgive me but I somtimes lapse out of the PCness, saying "Cuban-American" when in most of convo with fellow Cuban-Americans of all political persuasion use the term "Cuban(s)" or "Cubano(s)". If we are here we realize we are Americans and I don't see why we have to explain that to placate Cuban bashers.
*2"Census 2000, We the People: Hispanics" 2004 and "Census 2000, We the People: Demographic Report"2004 You may note that they were revised from an earlier report from Census 2000 and are much more flattering to Hispanics of all backgrounds. There was no explanation for the revision.