June 2010

Hispanics and the Future of America

When you consider the fact that approximately 33 percent of the current U.S. population is represented by Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, the underrepresentation of these groups in the sciences is unconscionable. Moreover, with significant increases expected in the Hispanic population over the next 25 years, the underrepresentation of minorities, and, in particular, Hispanics, will continue to plague our country and our entire scientific enterprise. Significantly, this issue will remain at all levels of academia— i.e. in populations of students, academic faculty, health professionals, administration officials and, of course, professional scientific societies such as the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

John F. Alderete, professor at Washington State University, gave a talk at the 2009 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers conference as part of the Advancing Hispanic Excellence in Technology, Engineering, Math and Science Distinguished Lecture Series. In the lecture, Alderete discussed the state of education in the Hispanic community and its effects on the country. This presentation is very relevant to the current and future goals of ASBMB, and, as such, the ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee has reproduced an excerpt from his talk below.

John F. Alderete, professor at Washington State University.

You are part of a new America. The diversity represented in this new global village must learn to work together if our nation and the American dream are to survive. Although we no longer look like the America of a hundred years ago, we need to make it clear that we want to preserve the American dream, making it better, more secure and more accessible to more of our citizens. We must work together to make our nation and world safer for diversity.

Today, Latinos represent 15 percent of the American population. Before 2050, we’ll be 30 percent.

Between 2000 and 2006, the U.S. population grew by 6 percent, Latinos grew by nearly 25 percent.

Today, the median U.S. age is 37 years old. The median age for Latinos is 27 years old.

From 1990 to 2013, the buying power of white Americans will grow 200 percent. Latino buying power will grow 560 percent.

In the next 10 years, we’ll experience a net growth in the labor force of 77 percent. Latinos will be part of the labor work force because we are young and do not belong to the highest Ph.D. levels in university, government or industry science, technology, engineering and mathematics research.

One recent study revealed that Latino children start life at an intellectual level on par with other American children, but, by age 2, they are already behind in linguistic and cognitive skills. We have a large percentage of Latina moms with less formal schooling. This means that their children receive lower quality reading activities, vocabulary, educational games and math, which should begin as early as three months after birth. The language gap between white and Latino students remains unbelievably large, inhibiting full participation in democracy and high level achievement.


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