Why Hispanic Heritage Month Matters

Why Hispanic Heritage Month Matters

By Angela Baldwin, President of the Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan

Hispanic Heritage Month is a month of pride, celebration and education allowing us to unite around shared values and the American Dream. It’s a time of taking stock of who we are and where we are today.

At a time when the economy is foremost in many people’s minds, Hispanic Heritage Month is our mouthpiece to show how our representation in America matters. A study by Pew Research indicates that the Hispanic population in the U.S. has increased by 23% over the past 10 years, now numbering 62.1 million. By 2030, the projected Hispanic population is anticipated to be 74.8 million out of 325 million (21.1%). We are the largest and fastest growing “blind spot” of the American Economy. This has enormous consequences for our culture and our country. The GDP of Latinos in the U.S. in 2020 was $2.8 trillion, surpassing the GDPs of U.K., India, and Japan. Our purchasing power is $1.9 trillion dollars and has the potential to increase to $2.6 trillion over the next three years.

Our cultural belief in hard work and success contribute to our upward mobility. With income growth of 77% and a new home ownership rate of 48%, we lead all other groups in terms of upward mobility. The number of adult Hispanic’s earning higher education degrees has increased to 73%, leading to higher skilled occupations. According to a recent report by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a staggering 86% of all new American businesses launched between 2007 and 2012 were started by Hispanics. We account for 40% of all workforce growth and are offsetting declines from the outgoing Baby Boomers.

Moreover, we play an important role in the election process because we turn out to vote. Contrary to some notions, over 80% of our community are citizens, and many more are in the citizenship process. Our community believes in the responsibility that comes along with being an American. We pay federal, state, and local taxes that most recently was tallied as $308.5 billion, which is up $94 million dollars from just a few years prior. Our love of this nation is evident as we are the fast-growing population in the military accounting for 16% of all active-duty military personnel.

Despite such resounding numbers, Hispanics are among the most undercapitalized and under-resourced in the U.S. For example, Hispanic businesses were disproportionately impacted by Covid and 50%+ less likely to receive government relief under the Payment Protection Program. We, however, are resilient by nature. Even though studies show that the Covid pandemic took a toll on us personally and financially, the report found that Latino economic output went from being equivalent to the world’s eighth-largest GDP at the start of 2020 to the fifth largest when the year ended according to the Pew Research Center.

Notwithstanding such substantial progress, we still have a long way to go. Specifically, the legal profession has been very slow to diversify by ethnicity over the past decade. We are disproportionately represented in the legal field and the judiciary. According to the ABA National Lawyer Population Survey, Hispanics make up almost 19% of the U.S. population, yet only 4.8% of lawyers are Hispanic. In private practice, we make up only 1.8% of law firm partners. The Federal Judicial Center found that from 2017 through 2020 the U.S. Senate confirmed 229 federal judges. Of those, only nine (4%) were Hispanic. Consequently, the composition of the federal judiciary does not reflect the various perspectives and experiences of those who are served by our nation’s courts, which is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Political representation and clout are on the table as is our representation from the C-Suites to the jobs on Main Street. From sports and entertainment to educational opportunity and the freedom to achieve. It is critical that we collectively use this month as a platform to educate and set the record straight, so that we are accurately represented as positive contributors to the U.S., and I invite you to join me in spreading the word. “If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” – Roberto Clemente

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