January 26, 2004

Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos

Summary and Chartpack

I. Overview


The Pew Hispanic Center/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos: Education was conducted by telephone between August 7 and October 15, 2003 among a nationally representative sample of 3,421 adults, 18 years and older, who were selected at random. Representatives of the Pew Hispanic Center and The Kaiser Family Foundation worked together to develop the survey questionnaire and analyze the results. International Communications Research of Media, PA conducted the fieldwork in either English or Spanish, based on the respondent’s preference.

The sample design employed a highly stratified disproportionate RDD sample of the 48 contiguous states. The results are weighted to represent the actual distribution of adults throughout the United States.

Of those who were interviewed, 1,508 identified themselves as being of Hispanic or Latino origin or descent (based on the question “Are you, yourself of Hispanic or Latino origin or descent, such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, Caribbean or some other Latin background?”) and throughout this summary they will be referred to interchangeably as either “Latinos” or “Hispanics.”

Latinos were classified into two groups: foreign-born Latinos and native-born Latinos. Foreign-born Latinos are those who were born outside of the fifty states as well as those who were born on the island of Puerto Rico, a commonwealth associated with the United States. Although individuals born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens by birthright, they were included among the foreign-born because, like immigrants from Latin America, they were born into a Spanish-dominant culture and because on many points their attitudes, views and beliefs are much closer to Hispanics born abroad than to Latinos born in the fifty-states, even those who identify themselves as being of Puerto Rican origins. Native-born Latinos are those who say they were born in the United States.

Interviews were also conducted with 1,193 non-Latino whites and 610 non-Latino African Americans. The terms “white” and “African American” are used throughout this summary to refer to non- Latino whites and non-Latino African Americans.

Because of the nature of the survey, some questions were only asked of parents who currently have children in school. Of the total 3,421 adults interviewed, 1,268 reported that they are parents of children who are in Kindergarten through the 12th grade.

The sample size and margin of sampling error for these groups is shown in the table below:

Note that sampling error may be larger for other subgroups and that sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll.

Copies of topline results (#3032) and copies of this summary document (#3031) are available online at www.kff.org and www.pewhispanic.org.

Summary of Findings for the Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos: Education

School- and college-aged young people (ages 5 to 24) make up 37% of the Hispanic population compared to 27% of the non- Hispanic population.1 Over the next 25 years, this segment of the Latino population is projected to increase by 82%.2 Given these realities, it is hardly surprising that Latinos consistently cite education as their top policy concern and that Latinos’ educational outcomes are a matter of national significance. Moreover, these demographic developments are taking place against the backdrop of major changes in the nation’s K-12 system as states and school districts apply the sweeping new federal requirements embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB Act).

In its second annual National Survey of Latinos, the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation extensively explored Latinos attitudes towards public schools and a variety of education issues. Substantial comparison samples of whites and African Americans were similarly polled. The survey reveals a diversity of opinion among the nation’s major ethnic and racial groups. Within the Hispanic population, some sharp contrasts are evident between the native and foreign born.

Throughout the survey, Latinos demonstrate an overarching faith in their local schools and in educational personnel and institutions overall. Hispanic immigrants—the foreign born—profess particularly positive attitudes and a sense of optimism that distinguishes them from Hispanics born in the United States—the native born—as well as from whites and African Americans. Latino parents also appear eager to engage the educational system and to take responsibility for ensuring their children’s success. But, the survey also reveals their concerns that the educational system does not always treat Latino students fairly. Substantial numbers of Latinos, for example, worry Hispanic students lag because teachers are not able to bridge cultural divides in their classrooms, and yet Latinos are equally willing to assume some of the blame for not pushing their children hard enough.

Latinos emerge from the survey as willing participants in the reforms legislated in the NCLB Act that President George W. Bush has advocated as the core of his education agenda. Indeed, by some measures, Latinos are more willing to embrace such reforms than whites or African Americans, offering stronger support for the use of standardized testing as a measure of achievement. However, on the controversial issue of how to deal with schools that repeatedly fail to meet performance standards, most Latinos favor helping schools improve but still requiring students to continue to attend while most whites favor letting parents move their children elsewhere, which is a key element of the Bush education agenda. The survey also reveals considerable lack of knowledge about the NCLB Act itself. Large numbers of Latinos, whites and African Americans alike say they are not aware of the fact that a major education reform has been enacted and lack information on key policy issues such as vouchers and charter schools.

Language, not surprisingly, stands out as a critical topic. Latinos, like nearly all Americans, insist that the schools should teach English to students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants. But, there is also a strong view among Latinos, especially the foreign born, that the schools should help such students maintain their family’s native tongue when it is a language other than English. Non-Hispanics are much less likely to support such efforts and are more likely than Latinos to blame lack of proficiency in English for lagging Latino educational achievement.

On civil rights issues in the education arena, Latinos hold diverse views. While the foreign born strongly favor affirmative action in university admissions programs, fewer native-born Latinos agree. Meanwhile, on the question of whether racially and ethnically integrated schools are beneficial for students, the native born are more likely to see integration as a worthwhile objective than the foreign born.

In this survey, Latinos appear distinctly optimistic and eager to engage American institutions. Despite evidence from achievement tests, high school dropout rates and levels of college completion showing that Latinos overall are not doing as well as whites in the U.S. education system3, Hispanics do not emerge from this survey as a disgruntled population that views itself as greatly disadvantaged or victimized. Moreover, Latinos distinguish themselves from whites and African Americans on a range of education issues, and this survey points to distinctly Latino views on complex questions like the appropriate uses of standardized testing. As the Latino share of the school-age population continues to grow and as schools implement the many policy changes envisioned in the NCLB Act, these views may become increasingly important in shaping the nation’s educational future.

  1. March 2002 Current Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureau
  2. Projections by the Pew Hispanic Center
  3. The Pew Hispanic Center