Fifty percent of Latinos in York County are unemployed, study finds

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
FILE -- Latino students protest Donald Trump on the steps at Sproul Plaza at the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, Oct. 9, 2016. Trump’s campaign plan of deporting 2 million to 3 million immigrant criminals raised questions on how he would target for that removal and achieve removals at that scale. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

A new study has revealed 50 percent of Hispanic and Latino individuals in York County are unemployed, but that's not the only area in which the community is struggling.

The study, titled "2017 York County Hispanic and Latinx Community Assessment," was presented Wednesday, July 11, at the York Jewish Community Center.

Vinny Cannizzaro, a public policy fellow at the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy at York College, conducted the research and presented the findings to an audience of more than 50 government officials, business owners and community members.

Vinny Cannizzaro, a public policy fellow at the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy at York College.

The event was sponsored by United Way of York County and Latinos Unidos of York, a nonprofit Latino advocacy organization in York City.

The 76-page study is based on more than 200 surveys of Hispanic and Latino residents countywide between January and March of this year and highlights a plethora of issues plaguing the population.

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Population statistics: In York County, 7.2 percent of residents countywide identify as being from Latino or Hispanic origin. This quadruples in York City, where 30.9 percent of the population falls in the same category, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Still, both areas have seen the population skyrocket.

The county's Latino population is more than double the percentage from the 2000 census, when 2.96 percent of the population identified as Latino.

The city's Hispanic and Latino population is nearly double since the 2000 census, when only 17.9 percent of residents identified as such.

Results: The standout results of the survey, Cannizzaro said, were the massive unemployment rate among Latinos and the general discomfort the population feels in their local communities.

He added that there has been a severe lack of documentation of the issues facing the Latino community.

"There wasn't enough understanding about what was happening to begin with," he said. "We are going from no information to this, which is surprising."

Cannizzaro added that he hopes to see policy change coming from his research.

"I'm hoping that this can help set the policy agenda for governmental agencies and organizations so they figure out what they should be doing," he said.

Louis Rivera, founder of Latinos Unidos, has long called upon York to treat its Latino residents better, but the research quantifies the struggles.

"The state of the Latino community is sad and unhealthy," he said. "However, we are making sure the Latino population is a part of everyday life in York City, and this work will help do that."

A summary of the findings is below, along with a list of recommendations for county officials and community members.

Employment: Fifty percent of survey respondents are currently unemployed, and of those who are employed, more than 80 percent earn less than $35,000 per year. 

As a result, more than 40 percent of survey respondents are at risk of falling below the federal poverty line, the study states.

The language barrier affects respondents' ability to find jobs as well.

Fifty percent of survey respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “I know how to find jobs for people that speak Spanish."

Housing: Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed are renters, which is drastic contrast to the total population of York County residents, 25 percent of whom rent homes or apartments.

Because of  violence and discrimination, the Latino community also says they are uncomfortable where they live.

Less than 35 percent of survey respondents state that they are comfortable sitting outside their home at night. 

Discrimination: The study found that this discomfort is a result of long-standing discrimination and mistreatment of Hispanics in the state and county.

Throughout Pennsylvania, 70 percent of discriminatory cases related to employment, public accommodations or education were committed against someone of Latino heritage, according to the study.

Additionally, almost 50 percent of respondents knew someone who had been discriminated against based on their language use alone.

Life in the county: Because of discrimination and other factors, respondents expressed little trust in local government and emergency response agencies.

Less than 33 percent of survey respondents reported that the government understands their needs, according to the study.

Less than 35 percent of survey respondents trust the police.

Distrust and a feeling of isolation have resulted in a widespread desire for community centers and places where the population can interact, the study states.

The research showed 80 percent of survey respondents stated that they would like a community center for the Spanish-speaking community.

Recommendations: After analyzing survey results, Cannizzaro drafted five recommendations for the county.

Recommendations include language training services, increasing community engagement through new initiatives and creating a more-welcoming community as a whole.

The largest recommendation is a system of "Latino community centers."

The system "should be governed by a board of directors that has regularly scheduled, ongoing conversations about the needs and issues impacting residents," the study states. The board would increase community involvement by allowing direct communication between residents and policymakers.

An expansion of language training to improve communication within the community is recommended to "support both Spanish and English language proficiency."

The report suggests this would be done through "free or low-cost Spanish language and culture courses geared toward human or social-service providers, free or low-cost Spanish language and culture courses for the general public, and the creation of a “Conversation Partners” program."

A "mobile job center" also is suggested to allow "disenfranchised persons" to better access resources and jobs locally.

"The government, nonprofits and businesses will be able to better engage clients and provide individuals with enhanced access to needed services by taking employment and training services directly to individuals," the study said.

Additionally, the study suggested the development of "a consistently and continuously updated website and mobile application system that captures all of the services offered throughout York County."

Service organizations also should conduct "cultural competency training," the study continued. Barriers to service, such as fear of the registration process and fear of discrimination, would be emphasized in the training.

Overall, the county should increase its efforts to create a welcoming community, the study states.

To do this, the study recommends the creation of a staff position "to enhance cooperation, understanding and cultural competency within all aspects of the community."