Latinos are some of the hardest hit in the economic recession, yet by and large they are more optimistic than the general electorate about life for the next generation in the United Sates, according to a Fox News Latino poll released this week.
Three-quarters (74 percent) think life for the next generation of Latinos in the United States will be better than life today, according to the poll of 887 likely Latino voters. Voters overall are much less optimistic about the future—less than half (42%) of voters overall think life will be better for the next generation of Americans, while more (49%) think life will be worse, according to an August Fox News Poll.
Latinos are more optimistic even though they have been deeply distressed by the flagging economy: About 10 percent are unemployed (the numbers go up for Latinos 18-29, whose unemployment rate is at 13.7 percent) they have had the largest increase in poverty rate, from 20.6 to 26.6 percent from 2005 to 2009, and saw the largest drop, 66 percent, in median household wealth during those four years.
Denise Segura, Professor of Sociology at the University of California Santa Barbara, said it’s the "spirit of optimism" among immigrants that keeps them so positive.
"It's called Provisional vision," Segura said of Latino immigrants, which encompass half of the 52 million US Latinos. "Latino immigrants are always comparing themselves to what’s going on in other Latin American countries, and even though life here is constrained, it is better than back in their countries."
This optimism is shared by Latinos of all ages, demographics and political outlooks across the board.
Part of that optimism could be equated to the fact that things are simply just better for Latinos now than they were a generation ago, said Dr. Chuy Aros, psychologist and director of a university counseling center. He is also a Mexican-American father of five.
"We are sending more and more of us through that "leaky Hispanic education pipeline" and are poising ourselves for a change," said Dr. Aros, who remembered in the 80s talk of Latinos becoming the nation's "new majority. "That day has come."
Optimism is also tied hand in hand to the belief in the American Dream.
Vincent Parrillo, professor of sociology at William Patterson University in New Jersey, also believes the conscious decision to start a new life by immigrants, by oneself or one's parents and grandparents, and the courage and determination it takes to do so, explains the optimism despite economic turmoil.
“There is a steely strength to a typical immigrant,” said Parillo said. "The possibilities are more, the opportunities are better here, and they’ve put their faith in the new land they have come to.”
Faith in a new land, and in God. According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, more Latinos claim a religious affiliation than compared to the general population, and that faith, in combination with the immigrant, spirit is flourishing.
Latinos in general are more likely than the general public to attend religious services weekly or more often, 43 percent versus 36 percent.
"There is a spirit of optimism that comes from knowing that you’re not alone," Segura said. "A strength by coalition."