Annika Darling CTLatinoNews.com
This year, the last of the Baby Boomers – the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — will be turning 50. Many will retire, many already have. This group makes up a large portion of the population in Connecticut. As these boomers exit the workforce another kind of boom is occurring in tandem: the Latino Boom, and the concurrence of the two changing scenarios creates economic complications.
The Latino population increased by 50 percent in Connecticut from 2000 to 2010. It was reported by the Huffington Post to have reached a growth rate of 12 times faster than the general population. During its peak growth spurt in 2013, the state’s Latino population surpassed the half-million mark.
In comparison, according to reports by AARP, as of 2014 Connecticut’s boomer population was 943,150. Meaning that these two groups (Baby Boomers and Latino Boomers), alone, make up approximately 52 percent of the population of Connecticut. The total current adult population is: 2,796,969.
The exiting of the Baby Boomers from the workforce and the great influx of a young Latino population has created a great societal shift that comes with many challenges to both the Latino community and the community at large: The crippled Connecticut economy, the loss of taxable income, the hurdles in education facing the Latino population, and the absence of middle class jobs are among some of the immediate concerns expressed by community leaders.
Orlando Rodriguez, Associate Legislative Analyst at the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission says, “Looking forward, what we are going to see is a bunch of Baby Boomers in Connecticut that are retiring. They pay taxes when they are working, but once they retire they are going to go on fixed incomes; their incomes are going to go down. So there will be less income for the state to tax and less income to pay for education for the younger population, that is increasingly Latino.”
The question seems to be: is the income loss from one boom going to affect the other, and how much will that, in turn, affect the economy?
In 2009, Jeanette Dejesus, then President of the Hispanic Health Council, a Latino research and advocacy organization, saw education for the growing Latino community as an area needing immediate attention if the economy was to maintain a healthy state. She was quoted on NBC Connecticut saying, “”Whenever you have any group that is this big, it needs to be highly skilled, it needs to be well educated…we need to make investments in these groups so they can contribute to the economy.”
Many people argue that the funding and the focus on education on this growing Latino population is currently insufficient.
“These kids are not getting educated,” says Rodriguez, “and its because they are not being taught English. The state doesn’t fund it well: about 60 dollars per child per year for bilingual education in Connecticut, which is nothing.”
The majority of the Latino Boomers are young and sparsely educated. According to Rodriguez: “In 2020, a quarter of the states K-12 population will be Hispanic.”
He also reminds us that: “Connecticut has the largest achievement gap between whites and Hispanics in the country.”
As reported in 2012 by the New Haven Independent: “In Connecticut, 64 percent of Hispanics graduated within four years, compared to 71 percent of blacks and 89 percent of whites, according to a national database using a new, more accurate four-year cohort measurement for the Class of 2011. Though based on a different calculation, data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Class of 2010 showed a similar gap nationwide: 15.1 percent of Hispanics dropped out of high school, which was three times the rate of whites and nearly twice the rate of blacks.”
While the education gap clearly needs to be addressed, the state’s economic status may make this a challenge in the the coming years. Rodriguez says the state is facing a billion dollar deficit this coming year.
“Our budget shows we are going to spend a billion dollars more than we have in revenue, so where is that billion dollars going to come from?” Rodriguez asks, “You have to raise taxes, and no one wants to raise taxes, so what ends up is things like education gets cut.”
The state may find itself in bit of a catch 22: Funding needs to go into educating the upcoming Latino workforce, but with the boomers income out of the picture and other financial hardships, funding for education will slack, however, the future of the economy necessitates that investments be made to educate the upcoming Latino workforce.
Rodriguez is of the opinion that Connecticut’s future is largely dependent on how successful the Latinos are in getting into the middle class, and not just that, but how successful the state is in being able to create middle class jobs for them.
“Simply put,” says Rodriguez, “The numbers are growing, and if Latinos don’t enter the middle class of Connecticut in large numbers, the state’s economy will feel it negatively…and if they do enter it in large numbers, the economy will grow.”
Just as the baby boomers shaped our world, the current Latino boom will have a large impact on Connecticut’s future. Whether this impact is negative or positive depends on advocating for the right policies and creating the right structures to nurture the young booming population.