New report highlights inequality for Central Texas Latinos

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Systemic and racial barriers have made it more difficult for the Latin American community to excel in central Texas, according to a new report of Hispanic Impact Fund of Austin Community Foundation. Building a Prosperous Central Texas: Advancing the Future of Latinos takes a closer look at the data underlying the challenges and contributions of Austin-area Latinos in an effort to alleviate some of the barriers and build a brighter, more equitable future for all.

A third of the population of central Texas is currently Latino, but this number is increasing; by 2050, Latinos are expected to be the region’s largest ethnic group, overtaking the white population. But these numbers are not always represented in Austin society. Latinos lag behind other ethnic groups in many aspects of life – the report highlights a palpable gap in the racial division of wealth, as well as in early childhood education, health and well-being – being, professional skills and leadership development.

“It is imperative that all residents of our area can live, work and play in the city they call home,” said Estevan Delgado, the program manager for the Hispanic Impact Fund. “Latinos are the future of central Texas. And we must be ready to support their advancement throughout the region. “

Looking at wealth based on race, the report points out that in the Austin metropolitan area, about four times as many Latinos live in poverty as whites. Fifty-five percent of Latinos experience “liquid asset poverty,” which measures financial vulnerability, a rate comparable to that of the black community, but more than double the rate for whites. The median Latino household earns almost $ 27,000 less each year than the median White household, making it more difficult to buy homes, care for children, and build generational wealth.

Part of the reason for this is that a large portion of the Latin American workforce is “limited to minimal incomes,” the report says, whether due to job skills, differences in education or lack of knowledge of English.

Adrien paredes, founder of the local company Tamale addiction and friend of the Hispanic Impact Fund, can talk about the challenges of owning a small Latino business. Paredes, who grew up in Mexico, moved to the United States to pursue his dreams of industrial design. Although his move started successfully, the 2008 recession derailed him and he struggled to find work. Enormous determination and a bit of luck drove Paredes and his wife into the tamale business, and 12 years later the business is still booming.

But Paredes’ journey hasn’t gone smoothly, and he’s worried about other Central Texas Latinos who haven’t stumbled upon the luck and goodwill he attributes, in part, to the success of his company.

“You can start… small and invest your own money and everything, but once you start to grow you need that push,” Paredes said. “I’ve seen a lot of Latinos start their businesses and the pressure is too much… (until) someone knows it’s going to be a good deal. (Then) everyone will follow.

One of the biggest challenges Paredes has faced as an entrepreneur is getting banks or organizations to provide the financial boost needed to thrive. Although it was the most difficult at first, he said he still struggles to find loans and grants. Only a handful of organizations have given it the time of day, and it has been rejected countless times.

“Even showing good numbers, taking them around our kitchen and showing them how we work, all the successes we have, everything – they say no, we can’t,” Paredes explained. “Sometimes I think, what are the parameters they envision to make this happen? Without (some of these) organizations… we would probably still be in the dark.

Making entrepreneurial success more achievable for Latinos through grantmaking is a primary goal of the Hispanic Impact Fund, and it hopes its latest report will underscore the need for its mission. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of Latinos in business has increased. Yet in Austin, nearly half of Latino-owned businesses have annual revenues of less than $ 100,000.

“What we’re really excited to do in our grant making,” said Delgado, “is support the knowledge and training that we can provide to Latino entrepreneurs so that they can actually grow these businesses and have the knowledge and resources to turn these entrepreneurial efforts into livable income.

Photo made available via a Creative Commons License.

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