A recent article in the Houston Chronicle brought perspective to the growing concern of the dissipating middle class. The article focused on the impact that Texas Hispanics have on the entire population and highlighted statistics that a bit troubling. Some people believe that the American Dream is the ability to come to this great land and earn a place within the robust middle class. However, this dream seems a bit fleeting for Texas Hispanics. In fact, if the current trends affecting Texas Hispanics do not end, this state is in danger of developing a “permanent underclass”. Further, there have been several state and federal studies that indicate the Hispanic population of Texas is economically stagnant and may be falling behind Latinos in other parts of the U.S. In fact, this widespread poverty could not only affect those in the “permanent underclass”, it could pull down the standard of living for all Texans. This is not a problem that only some parts of society have to face; it is an issue that all Texans must face for the benefit of this state, and also this country.

Here are some facts that are a cause for concern:

  • Texas native-born Hispanics have a higher high school dropout rate and a lower level of college attainment than those living in other U.S. states;
  • The attrition rate among Hispanic high school students in Texas was 42 percent in 2009;
  • Hispanic girls accounted for 62 percent of all births to teen mothers in 2006, the most recent year that statistic was reported;
  • Studies have shown that the Latino high school dropout problem is driven by boys who quit to go to work to support their families and girls who become teen mothers for the second time;
  • If the dropout rates continue as indicated, the percentage of the Texas work force lacking a diploma will grow from 18 percent in 2000 to 30 percent by 2040;
  • Texas Latinos had a median hourly wage of $11.54 from 2007-2009, about 64 percent of the earnings of non-Hispanic whites; however, in other parts of the U.S., Latinos earned $12.42, or about 71 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Statistics such as these send a shock right up and down your system. It is clear that education is the key to success. This should renew our dedication to educating our youth, no matter where they live, what they look like, or where they are from. These statistics further assert that education is directly linked to earning capacity. Therefore, in order for all Texans to develop as a community, we must make certain that no members of the community are forgotten or left behind. Encouraging and making efforts to keep our children in school is now more important than ever.

I have been aware of this issue and tracking this growing concern for some time now. This was part of the reason I formed the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation–to encourage law students to continue to strive for excellence and to set an example for other young people in their community. It is imperative that we as professionals continue to support the younger generation. If you would like any additional information on how to contribute to the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation, please contact my office at your convenience.