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ASU, ALRE release major study on Ariz.'s Latino population

November 12, 2009

While people of Mexican origin have been a vital part of Arizona’s development since pre-statehood days, their history and accomplishments have been largely overlooked. A major new study on Latino issues in Arizona sheds light on the past and present, completed by the Arizona Latino Research Enterprise and Arizona State University.

“The State of Latino Arizona” highlights challenges and issues faced by the Latino community in areas such as economics, education, health, politics and the arts, and it suggests policy implications for the future. The study is among the most in-depth and comprehensive examinations ever done of the issues facing Latinos in Arizona.

It will be unveiled Nov. 13 at ALRE’s 2009 Latino Town Hall, at the Wyndham Downtown Phoenix Hotel, 50 E. Adams St. Presentations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will spotlight the study results and offer a critical discussion of how to address the issues.

More than a dozen ASU faculty, staff and student researchers, as well as writers and researchers from the community, worked on the study over the course of the past year.

“It has been a privilege and an honor for us to work with ASU in developing this important study,” says Sal Rivera, chairman of ALRE, a non-profit organization formed to establish partnerships and solutions to problems in the Latino community.

“The findings of the study cast an important light on some of the most important issues being faced in our community today, and pave the way for finding ways to solve some of our most significant and lingering problems.”

Carlos Velez-Ibanez, chair of the ASU Department of Transborder Chicano/a and Latina/o Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who spearheaded the research effort, says it was a “labor of love.” He and his colleagues studied a population that has been key in providing the necessary human and cultural capital for the territory and then the state to flourish, but faces major challenges in income, education and political clout.

Some of the key findings:

• Demographics: The Latino population in Arizona is young and mostly of Mexican origin, with more than one-third under 18 years of age and three-quarters of whom were born in the United States or are naturalized U.S. citizens.

• Politics: While the political influence of the Latino population has grown significantly in the past 40 years, the community’s ability to shape elections and public opinion lags behind its numbers, suggesting the need to focus on voter registration and turnout.

• Education: Latino students struggle to achieve academic success relative to their Anglo and Asian peers, regardless of grade, subject matter or income level. They attained only 13 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded by the state universities in 2007, while representing about a third of the population.

• Economics: Latinos are a cornerstone of the economic dynamism that defines Arizona as a gateway border state, and Latino-owned businesses are rapidly growing. But education is the key variable in ensuring that economic rewards are equitably earned and distributed.

• Health: Latinos are disproportionately exposed to health hazards and affected by a set of conditions and diseases that include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, violence and injury at the workplace, accentuated by lack of health insurance.

• Arts: Mexican origin populations have a strong tradition in literature, theater, music, painting and sculpture, and now in film. A current explosion of arts reflects the needs and aspirations of the Latino population.

Among the ASU participants in the study are Carlos G. Velez-Ibanez, Arturo Rosales, Christine Marin, Eileen Diaz McConnell, Amanda Skeen, Lisa Magana, Miguel Montiel, Eugene Garcia, Mehmet Dali Ozturk, J. Luke Wood, Barbara Robles, Loui Olivas, Hilda Garcia-Perez, Seline Szkupinski-Quiroga, Michelle J. Martinez, Paul Espinosa and Marta E. Sanchez. Paul J. Luna, president of Helios Education Foundation, and journalist and playwright James E. Garcia also were contributors.

The study is posted online at ­­­