Hope and Change Yet to Reach Hispanics

It’s a simple fact: Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. In 2008, exit polls showed that Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared with 31 percent who pulled the lever for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Four years later, Republicans fared even worse among Hispanics, with 71 percent voting for Obama versus just 27 percent for Mitt Romney.

Democratic Party strategists know that if they have any chance of winning their third straight presidential election, much rests on maintaining the high margin of support among the fast-growing Hispanic electorate.

And yet, according to a variety of economic indicators, Hispanics have actually fared worse under the Obama administration.

hispanic income

Source: US Census Bureau

Start with the unemployment rate, which has been consistently higher among Hispanics than the national average since Obama was sworn into office nearly eight years ago. In fact, for almost the entire first term of President Barack Obama, the unemployment rate for Hispanics nationwide was in double digits. Not until late 2012 did the Hispanic unemployment rate fall below 10 percent.

hispanic wages

But the drop in Hispanic unemployment hides an inconvenient fact: most of the decline is the result of workers simply dropping out of the workforce. The Left-liberal National Council of La Raza had to concede that “the Latino labor force participation rate dropped and the total Latino workforce shrank by 261,000.”

As for those fortunate enough to be employed, the Pew Hispanic Center reports that median weekly earnings among Hispanics have stagnated. Median weekly earnings among employed Hispanics in the fourth quarter of 2009 were around $593. In the same period four years later, the median had fallen to $573.

Hispanic median annual household income isn’t much better. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the annual household income among Hispanics began a slow but steady decline in 2008, as the nation plunged into recession. So far, however, most Hispanics — particularly Mexican Americans, who account for the largest ethnic group within the overall Hispanic population — have not recovered.

Homeownership is also further out of reach for Hispanics than it was when the Great Recession began. According to a recent study by the Demand Institute, a non-profit think tank operated by the Conference Board and Nielsen, nearly 4 million Latinos would like to be homeowners in the next five years, but only 1.5 million can afford it. The authors contend that the disparity is explained in part by the most recent housing crisis, but also because of Hispanics relatively low median income level.

Not surprisingly, when polled, Hispanics cite the economy and unemployment as their top concerns heading into the 2016. And yet, there is little indication thus far that Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s proposed economic policies would be much different from those of President Obama.

Heading into an election year, Republicans have an opportunity to showcase their economic policies as an alternative to the failure of the last seven years under the Obama administration.


Israel Ortega is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow Israel Ortega on Twitter @IzzyOrtega.