Study: York County Hispanic community, while growing, faces challenges
A new study shows that York County needs to better integrate its growing Hispanic population, so its members can find employment and educational opportunities.
The study was based on surveys of more than 200 people throughout the county and compiled into a report called the 2017 Hispanic and Latinx Community Assessment. The term Latinx is increasingly used in an effort to be more gender-inclusive.
The report was commissioned by the United Way of York County and conducted by Vinny Cannizzaro, public policy fellow at the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy at York College of Pennsylvania.
Cannizzaro presented his findings on Wednesday at the York Jewish Community Center. The meeting was hosted by the United Way and Latinos Unidos of York, a nonprofit advocacy group for Latinos.
Based on the research, Cannizzaro recommended that the county look toward increasing language training and language access services, producing more accessible employment and training opportunities, and creating a more welcoming community.
This research will lay the foundation to make sure everyone has a chance to thrive in York County, said Anne Druck, president of the United Way.
"The feedback from the countywide assessment and the recommendations based on these findings provide a jumping-off point for the community to develop strategies that can improve how individuals access human and social services and how we, together, can improve the quality of life for all residents," she said.
As the fastest-growing and the largest minority ethnic group in the U.S., the Hispanic population isn’t being tapped into as effectively as possible. The Hispanic population in York County grew 155 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to data from Pew Research.
The Hispanic and Latinx population makes up 7.2 percent of the population in York County, according to a report from the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau. In York City, the share is 30.9 percent.
"The proportion of residents who identify as white has decreased, while the proportion of residents identifying as persons of color has increased, the largest of which has been within the Hispanic and Latinx population,” Cannizzaro said.
Of that population, the 76-page study found, 50 percent is unemployed and more than 40 percent is at risk of falling below the federal poverty line.
Cannizzaro's findings were focused on understanding Hispanics’ and Latinx’s well-being and access to resources; community and trust; and social services sought and perspectives on social services. Respondents to the study also said that language barriers presented a challenge in finding employment. Fifty percent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, "I know how to find jobs for people that speak Spanish."
Education and job training, as well as access to both, were also cited as challenges. Less than 70 percent of those surveyed said they had completed high school and more than 10 percent had a bachelor’s degree. In comparison, Cannizzaro said that 88.5 percent of all York County residents have completed high school and more than 20 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree.
To keep the conversation flowing following his presentation, Cannizzaro facilitated roundtable discussions for attendees in helping identify possible partnerships and means to carry out his recommendations.
Engagement of the population is only the first step, said Louis Rivera, chairman and co-founder of Latinos Unidos of York. The United Way and Latinos Unidos hope to use the assessment as a means to not only understand the barriers that currently exist for Hispanics, but also toward building bridges between business owners and community leaders.
And hardships aside, the population’s buying power continues to increase year after year. That buying power is something businesses should not ignore, said Norman Bristol Colon, director of special projects for the Pennsylvania Department of State. As of 2015, the Hispanic population’s buying power nationwide was $1.5 trillion, he said.
"Business owners: You should not ignore this community. This is one of the world’s largest economies," Colon said. "And the only way we’re going tap into that is to change some attitudes."