NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Latino Youths Face Barriers in District of Columbia

May 13, 2003

The District of Columbia has a reputation for serving black students poorly. And now, a new report by the Council of Latino Agencies confirms that it serves Latino students just as badly.

  • Close to 9 percent of Latino students drop out of school, the highest rate of any group in the D.C. public school system.
  • In 1999, 31 percent of Latino youth who dropped out said they left because of fear of violence in their schools, compared with 19 percent for dropouts as a whole.

Spanish-speakers are 81 percent of the 9,000 children in D.C. public schools whose first language is not English, with 62 percent of them speaking limited or no English. Latinos account for 45,000, or almost 8 percent, of Washington's 571,000 residents, according to the 2000 Census.

In addition to education, other indicators noted in the report suggest the economic and social problems of D.C. Latinos:

  • In 2000, Latino per capita income was 54 percent less than the D.C. average of $30,697.
  • The teen birth rate among Hispanics is nearly twice that of the D.C. population generally -- whereas 8 percent of all women giving birth in six city wards were teenagers, in Wards 1 and 4, where the highest concentration of Latino residents lives, 15 percent and 18 percent, respectively, of Latino women who gave birth were teenagers.

The report recommends that city agencies and public institutions collect, separate and report all data by race and ethnicity; that public agencies provide more bilingual and culturally sensitive services; and that all D.C. agencies collaborate more closely with community-based programs for Latino children and their families.

Source: Sylvia Moreno, "D.C.'s Latino Youth Face Barriers, Study Says: Dropout, Pregnancy Rates Higher; City Agencies Criticized," Washington Post, May 12, 2003.


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