Jewish World Review April 22, 2003 / 20 Nisan, 5763

Raoul Lowery Contreras

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This minority is moving off the public dole and emerging as a power to be reckoned with


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | When the Italians stepped off the boat, they were shunned by America and relegated to the mines and construction ditches. When the Polish and Russian Jews stepped off the boat, they were declared too stupid to serve in the United States Army by American psychologists that tested their intelligence with crude IQ tests. When Chinese and Japanese immigrants arrived, they were not permitted to own land or to become citizens.

Hispanics, of course, in some manner and number were already here before America became a British colony, then a nation. They have been here since the 1500s.

In recent years, however, their population has exploded. Between 1990 and 2000, we're talking about a 58% growth in numbers. We're talking about 33,000,000 people.

And, while some have been relegated to mines and construction ditches, some declared too stupid to assimilate and some challenged at every turn by charges of illegal immigration, most have gone about their business and seeded an economic giant that is now becoming a major player in the United States of America, economically speaking.

They haven't shot their way into the economy like the Italians did. They have, instead, taken the Eastern European Jewish and Chinese/Japanese immigrant route of working hard, building bank accounts and spending money.

Global Insight Inc. of Massachusetts has completed a study for Spanish- language television network Telemundo (owned by GE/NBC) that is explosive, positively explosive on the future of the Hispanic population in the USA.

The population will grow 50% faster than the rest of the country. By 2020, Hispanic market share of the economy will almost double from 2000's 7.3% to 13%. Currently, Hispanics spend more on "fast food" than the rest of the country (27% more), and will increase by a compound rate of 7% a year for the next ten years. Hispanics already buy 15% of movie tickets and that will grow to 18% in 2018, a slice of business worth billions more for Hollywood.

Over the next decade, new car and truck sales among Hispanics will grow by 5.4% a year, in contrast o a 1.4% growth factor among non-Hispanics.

Three factors enter the picture: Faster population growth by immigration and higher birth rates; and, fast growth in per capita household income. Global predicts that Hispanic income will increase from 77% of the national average, currently, to 82% by 2020.

Buttressing the Global predictions are several other studies. For example, the University of Georgia's Selig Center predicts that Hispanic disposable income will mushroom from last year's $580/5 billion (that's with a "B") to $926 billion in four years, 2007. For those who are mathematically challenged, that's a 60% increase. Non-Hispanic growth of disposable income during the same time will be but 28%.

Those are the numbers. They are good news for the Hispanic population and for the country a whole.

The news is, fewer and fewer Hispanics will be on welfare and collecting public benefits, more and more will earn more money, buy houses and cars and other durable goods, proof, of course, that more and more Hispanics are reaching educational heights they haven't reached in the past. And, while immigration will continue to be a large factor, it will diminish in years to come, at least illegal immigration from Mexico will.

Mexican demographers are predicting that by 2015 there won't be enough Mexicans to keep Mexican labor surpluses large enough to feed the hungry American labor market. Then, American and Mexican wage levels will rise and Hispanics will make even more money.

There is a negative to all this good news. The Hispanic population is starting to make real money just as the vaunted Social Security system is inching towards bankruptcy. As the Baby Boomers retire, the Social security system will go broke quickly. That means one of two things: Either benefits will have to be cut, or taxes will have to be hiked to pay current and larger benefits for mostly non-Hispanic retires.

The Hispanic population of the country can face the challenge head on and flex their coming political muscles to keep from being raped as President William Jefferson Clinton predicted in his 1994 proposed budget, in which he footnoted that federal income taxes would have to rise to 81%, or, they can cave and elect people bent on ripping off Hispanics.

Despite the whining about Hispanics not participating in America, they're presence can no longer be ignored, even by their critics. As their economic muscle grows, so will their influence in matters economic and political. That's the real good news for today and tomorrow.

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JWR contributor Raoul Lowery Contreras is a columnist, radio talk-show host, and author of "The New American Majority, Hispanics, Republicans & George W. Bush" and "A Hispanic view: American politics and the politics of immigration." Comment by clicking here.

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© 2003, Raoul Lowery Contreras