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How Latino Students Are Boosting the Nation’s Economy


Between 2000 and 2015, the percentage of Latino students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools increased from 16 percent to 26 percent while the percentages of White students fell from 61 percent to 49 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. From 2015 to 2027, the percentage of Latino students is expected to continue to increase—from 26 percent to 29 percent—while the percentage of White students will fall from 49 percent to 45 percent.

As Latino students become a larger component of the K-12 student population, we must ensure they receive an education that prepares them for future success. In some ways we are–and they are delivering benefits to the economy in return–but in many other ways, we are not.

From 2011 to 2017, the U.S. high school graduation rate increased from 79 percent to 84.6 percent. Latino students played a significant part in the increase, as their graduation rate increased from 71 percent to 80 percent. In postsecondary education, Latino students experienced a six-year college graduation rate increase from 45.7 percent to 54.3 percent—an 18.8 percentage increase. That is the highest of all student groups during that time period.

These gains in Latino population and educational attainment are showing up in the U.S. economy. According to the Latino Donor Collaborative, the total economic output—or gross domestic product (GDP)—of Latino individuals in the United States was $2.3 trillion in 2017, up from $1.7 trillion in 2010. If Latino individuals in the United States were an independent country, their GDP would be the eighth largest in the world, as shown in the graph below.

Even greater gains are possible by addressing achievement and graduation rate gaps between Latino students and their White peers. Nationally, 88.6 percent of White students graduate from high school in four years, compared to 80.0 percent for Latino students. Additionally, Latino students continue to be overrepresented in low-performing high schools—those with graduation rates lower than 67 percent.

Were the United States to increase the high school graduation rate of Latino students to 90 percent, the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) estimates that those new high school graduates would create more than 4,000 jobs nationwide, earn more than $804 million in additional earnings, and expand the nation’s GDP by more than $1.5 billion.

Challenges also remain in higher education where the college graduation rate of Latino students trails that of White students by 9.4 percentage points. To improve college outcomes for these students, U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) has introduced the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment (HERE) Act. The bill, endorsed by the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, among others, would create a new $150 million grant program to support partnerships and collaboration between Hispanic-Serving Institutions and school districts that educate the majority of Latino students.

Additionally, a new law in California to eliminate remedial classes at community colleges has led to more Latino students enrolling in and passing courses with credits that can transfer to a four-year college. Remedial courses, which focus on high school-level material, cost the same as credit-bearing courses, but do not count toward a student’s degree. According to EdSource, Latino student enrollment in English courses eligible for transfer increased from 49 to 68 percent between fall 2017 and fall 2018. More than 10,500 more Latino students passed the English course in 2018—a 74 percent increase.

In many communities throughout the nation, however, education challenges take a back seat to the more pressing challenges of everyday life for so many Latino students and their families. Nationwide, about 3.9 million K-12 students in the United States are children of unauthorized immigrants. Even though 81 percent of these students are U.S. citizens, they live with the constant fear that their parents may not be at home when they return from school. That fear became a reality in Mississippi on August 8—the first day of school—when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 680 workers across Mississippi.

While most of the children affected in the Mississippi raids have been reunited with their parents, the trauma of this day will remain with these students for the rest of their lives. Some may never return to school.

As we reach the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15, the All4Ed’s #OurChallengeOurHope campaign continues to focus on the educational and societal challenges facing Latino students, as well as the prominent role they will play in the growth of the American economy going forward.

As we think about the sixty-fifth anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, our hearts continue to ache for the unmet promises of that landmark case. As our nation continues to diversify, we must address the basic tenet of this critical case—that all students, regardless of their race, must receive an excellent education—one that all families want for their children.

For more information and resources on challenges facing Latino and Hispanic students, visit

To learn more about All4Ed’s #OurChallengeOurHope campaign, visit