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New report underscores inequities for Latinos in Central Texas

Monday, October 18, 2021 by Willow Higgins

Systemic and racial barriers have made it harder for the Latino community to excel in Central Texas, according to a new report from the Hispanic Impact Fund of the Austin Community Foundation. Building a Thriving Central Texas: Advancing Latino Futures takes a closer look at the data underlying the challenges and contributions of Latinos in the Austin area in an effort to alleviate some of the barriers and construct a brighter, more equitable future for all. 

One-third of the Central Texas population is currently Latino, but that number is growing; by 2050, Latinos are projected to be the largest ethnic group in the area, surpassing the white population. But these numbers aren’t always represented in Austin society. Latinos are trailing behind other ethnic groups in many aspects of life – the report points out a palpable discrepancy in the racial wealth divide, as well as early childhood education, health and wellness, job skills and leadership development. 

“It’s imperative that all of our region’s residents are able to live, work and play in the city they call home,” said Estevan Delgado, the program manager of the Hispanic Impact Fund. “Latinos are the future of Central Texas. And we need to be prepared to support their advancement across the region.”

Looking at wealth based on race, the report points out that, in the Austin metro area, about four times as many Latinos are living in poverty compared to whites. Fifty-five percent of Latinos are experiencing “liquid asset poverty,” which measures financial vulnerability, a rate comparable to the Black community, but more than double the rate for whites. The median Latino household earns almost $27,000 less each year than the median white household, making it harder to buy homes, support children and accumulate generational wealth.

This is in part because much of the Latino workforce is “confined to minimal incomes,” according to the report, whether because of job skills, educational discrepancies or unfamiliarity with English.

Adrian Paredes, founder of the local business Tamale Addiction and friend of the Hispanic Impact Fund, can speak to the challenges of being a Latino small business owner. Paredes, who grew up in Mexico, moved to the U.S. to pursue his dreams of industrial design. While his move started off successfully, the 2008 recession threw him off track, and he was hard-pressed to find work. Tremendous determination and a little luck led Paredes and his wife into the tamale business, and 12 years later, business is still booming.

But Paredes’ journey didn’t come without strife, and he worries for other Latinos in Central Texas who haven’t stumbled upon the luck and goodwill he credits, in part, to the success of his business.

“You can start … small and put your own money in and everything, but once you start growing, you need that push,” Paredes said. “I’ve seen a lot of Latinos starting their businesses and the push is too hard … (until) somebody will know that it will be a good business. (Then) everybody else will follow.”

One of the greatest challenges Paredes faced as an entrepreneur is getting banks or organizations to provide that financial push needed to thrive. While it was hardest in the beginning, he said even now he struggles to find loans and grants. Only a handful of organizations have given him the time of day, and he has faced rejection countless times.

“Even showing good numbers, having them visit our kitchen, and showing them how we work, all the successes that we have, everything – they say no, we can’t,” Paredes explained. “Sometimes I think, what are the parameters they are considering to make this happen? Without (some of these) organizations … we would probably still be in darkness.”

Making entrepreneurial success more achievable for Latinos via grantmaking is a main objective of the Hispanic Impact Fund, and it hopes its latest report will underscore the need for its mission. Over the last 10 years, the proportion of Latinos in business has grown. Yet in Austin, nearly half of Latino-owned businesses have annual revenues of less than $100,000. 

“What we’re really excited to do in our grantmaking,” Delgado said, “is support the knowledge and the training that we can provide Latino entrepreneurs so they can go out and really scale those businesses and have the knowledge and resources needed to turn those entrepreneurial endeavors into livable incomes.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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