The Future Is Tied to Hispanics but Is California Ready?

PHOTO: A mother walks with her children to the MacArthur Park Primary Center School in Los Angeles Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Within six months, Californias Hispanic population will equal that of whites.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Hispanics will surpass whites as the largest ethnic group in California by 2014, according to the state's Department of Finance. Today, Hispanics and whites each account for 39 percent of California's population. By 2020, Hispanics will reach 40.7 percent and whites will make up 36.6 percent. That means California's future will increasingly depend on the success of Hispanics, whose growing numbers will replace aging baby boomers in the workforce.

"This should serve as a wake-up call and appreciate how the older generation needs the younger generation," Dowell Myers, urban planning professor at the University of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times. "Without the babies born to those immigrant mothers, we would really be in deep trouble."

Still, years of cuts to education will likely hamper California's future as baby boomers retire and draw from their benefits. California has spent less per student than other states in the rest of the United States every year since 1982. The gap in spending has also grown wider since the Great Recession. In 2010, California spent $8,826 per student, or $2,546 less than other states.

More than half of K-12 students in California are Hispanic. A nationwide study found that Hispanic children born to immigrant parents are the least likely to graduate high school (64 percent graduation rate). Low educational attainment is connected to longer periods of unemployment and lower economic success overall.

"We need educated workers because the modern economy is increasingly knowledge-based," Randy Johnson, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Wall Street Journal. "It's clear that people who don't finish high school face huge headwinds in this economy, and it's not good for the country because they don't have the skills to be gainfully employed."

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