Convergence and Disadvantage in Poverty Trends (1980–2010): What is Driving the Relative Socioeconomic Position of Hispanics and Whites?

Abstract

The gap between white and Hispanic poverty has remained stable for decades despite dramatic changes in the size and composition of the two groups. The gap, however, conceals crucial differences within the Hispanic population whereby some leverage education and smaller families to stave off poverty while others facing barriers to citizenship and English language acquisition face particularly high rates. In this paper, we use Decennial Census and American Community Survey data to examine poverty rates between Hispanic and non-Hispanic, white heads of household. We find the usual suspects stratify poverty risks: gender, age, employment, education, marital status, family size, and metro area status. In addition, Hispanic ethnicity has become a weaker indicator of poverty. We then decompose trends in poverty gaps between racial and ethnic groups. Between 1980 and 2010, poverty gaps persisted between whites and Hispanics. We find support for a convergence of advantages hypothesis and only partial support (among Hispanic noncitizens and Hispanics with limited English language proficiency) for a rising disadvantages hypothesis. Poverty-reducing gains in educational attainment alongside smaller families kept white–Hispanic poverty gaps from rising. If educational attainment continues to rise and family size drops further, poverty rates could fall, particularly for Hispanics who still have lower education and larger families, on average. Gains toward citizenship and greater English language proficiency would also serve to reduce the Hispanic–white poverty gap.

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Correspondence to Marybeth J. Mattingly.

Appendix : Blinder-Oaxaca Decomposition Models

Appendix : Blinder-Oaxaca Decomposition Models

  Hispanic–white poverty
  1980 1990 2000 2010
Gap 12.4% 13.5% 12.7% 11.6%
  Change in Hispanic poverty
Variable 1980 1990 2000 2010
Speaks English not well or not at all 0.00945 0.00889 0.01900 0.02909
Foreign-born, naturalized citizen − 0.00192 − 0.00173 0.00086 0.00300
Foreign-born, noncitizen 0.00773 0.00901 0.00984 0.00655
Professional occupation 0.00382 0.00363 0.00290 0.00334
Working in a typical “immigrant job” − 0.00159 n.s. 0.00032 0.00288
Number of adult workers in family − 0.00533 − 0.00983 − 0.00507 − 0.01326
Head employed < 50 weeks last year 0.00442 0.00602 0.00671 − 0.00673
Female 0.00035 0.00029* 0.00009 0.00036
25–34 years old 0.00224 0.00404 0.00299 0.00332
35–44 years old 0.00066 0.00108 0.00074 0.00073
45–54 years old 0.00033 0.00025 − 0.00039 − 0.00019
65–74 years old 0.00454 0.00620 0.00606 0.00608
75 + years old 0.00210 0.00562 0.01007 0.01031
Less than high school 0.01596 0.02405 0.02676 0.02909
High school, 12 years − 0.00061 − 0.00083 − 0.00086 − 0.00056
College, 4 + years 0.00076 0.00186 0.00265 0.00392
Married, spouse absent 0.00185 0.00165 0.00188 0.00291
Separated 0.00533 0.00484 0.00398 0.00514
Divorced 0.00061 n.s − 0.00141 − 0.00258
Widowed − 0.00349 − 0.00358 − 0.00248 − 0.00258
Never married, single 0.00058 0.00132 0.00171 0.00502
No children under age 18 0.00045 0.00334 0.00295 0.00539
Two children under age 18 0.00116 0.00215 0.00215 0.00233
Three children under age 18 0.01030 0.01193 0.00965 0.00873
Presence of a child under age 5 0.00276 0.00205 0.00175 0.00171
Not in metro area − 0.00130 − 0.00400 − 0.00114 − 0.00115
Metro area, central city − 0.00588 − 0.00318 − 0.00195 − 0.00140
Other metro 0.00169 0.00052 0.00082 0.00029
Metro status not identifiable 0.00052 0.00069 − 0.00055 − 0.00063
Totala 5.7% 7.6% 10.0% 10.1%
Proportion of gap explained 46% 56% 79% 87%
  1. P values are < 0.01 (two-tailed tests) unless otherwise noted: * p < 0.05 or “n.s.” (p > 0.05). Authors’ calculations of IPUMS data from Ruggles et al. (2015). Analysis sample of heads of household age 25 years and older (excludes group quarters)
  2. aTotal includes only coefficients with p value < 0.01

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Mattingly, M.J., Pedroza, J.M. Convergence and Disadvantage in Poverty Trends (1980–2010): What is Driving the Relative Socioeconomic Position of Hispanics and Whites?. Race Soc Probl 10, 53–66 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-017-9221-1

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Keywords

  • Poverty
  • Hispanics
  • Decomposition
  • Immigration
  • Trends