Texas May Have To Eliminate The Hispanic “Minority” Label To Save Its Economy

By Alex Gonzalez

Very few Americans are aware of the tremendous internal political battle Texas will have to endure over its identity as a state on the issues of race, Hispanic demographics, and education policies, to foster economic development. On Oct. 10, the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the Top Ten Percent plan that guarantees a space, at public Universities,  to  all students graduating in the top 10% from any high school in the state. From one angle, this case will pit the Republican Establishment that seeks to educate its large young Hispanics population against cultural conservatives across the nation, and publications like the National Review for sure,  that seek to terminate Affirmative Action through the Supreme Court. But The challenge to Top Ten Percent policy in Texas, more than political ideological opposition against   affirmative action, it is direct challenge on the efforts of the state to deal with its demographic shifts from old “Anglo” to new labor pool made of  a new highly educated Latino population.

The Top Ten Percent is entirely a policy created by Republicans in Texas in 1997  to ensure  that more Latinos—Mexican-Americans—would get access to higher education. Under this policy, the Top ten percent every school in the state is guaranteed as space in one of the Public Universities of Texas The objective of the plan is that even those poor “minorities” High schools, in which Latinos are categorized as minorities, are guaranteed access to higher education.   For most conservatives outside of Texas,  the plan itself may appear to be  social engineering since the state decides how many student make it to college, just because they are “minority, as opposed to merits. This education programs, betrays the ideal of personal accountability and  foments  more  “reverse discrimination” since a spot that could go to “white” student with good grades, now will have to good to “minority” students with lowers grades.

What is unusual about this policy is that Texas is by far one most Republican conservative states, yet the Republican legislature found it necessary to pass a policy to guarantee access to “minority” Mexican-Americans who are categorized as Hispanic/Latinos, or  “minority.” In reality, in Texas, Republicans have been long aware of the generational unequal boom of the Hispanic/Latino population and the aging population of “Anglos.” Therefore, despite the tough attack on affirmative action by conservative groups, Republican legislators in Texas understand that a healthy economic future of the state depends largely on educating young Mexican-Americans who will be 70% of the state population by 2040, yet, they keep being mis-labeled as “minorities.”

Evidently,  conservative purists outside of Texas  oppose the Top Ten Percent because they either deliberately fail recognize the large generational gap between the young  Hispanic/Latino  generation and aging “Anglo” population in the state, or simply do not care about economy and welfare of Texas, nor about the success of new generation in Texan, who will naturally be Hispanics.  For example, Gerald  Walpin, who worked under President W. Bush and now lives in New York City, wrote on the  WSJ  that:

Given the court’s approval of racial-preference programs in higher education in 1978 (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke) and as recently as 2003 (Grutter v. Bollinger), its decision to revisit the matter with Fisher v. University of Texas suggests an inclination to rule against affirmative action this time. That would be proper, as shown by the answers to four basic questions:….. The University of Texas, in its brief to the court, admitted that “[a]dding race to the mix . . . increases the chance” that an African-American or Hispanic applicant “will be admitted.” The school requires that race be displayed on the front of each applicant’s file.

Similar oppositions by other conservatives entirely on the basis of “racial” preferential   treatment, but never on economic need of Texas and the big demographic gap between young Latinos and aging Anglos. But, unlike conservatives outside of Texas,  Republicans in the state do care about educating Latinos.  For example according to the Texas Controller of Public Accounts, Susan Combs, the bloc of Texas older than 35- years of age, is largely made-up of “Anglos,” while the bloc of Texans younger than 35 is made up of Latinos.  As a result, “Texas has an aging population. From 1980 to 2005, the population of Texas as a whole rose from 14.2 million to 22.9 million, or about 60.7 percent. Over the same time period, the number of Texans aged 65 and over grew at a faster rate, 65.7 percent”.  Also, Population trends show that more people are moving from rural areas to urban/suburban areas. An estimated 86 percent of the 23 million people living in Texas in 2005 resided in urban areas, while an estimated 14 percent lived in rural areas.

As a result, and as the Report by the Texas Controller shows, Latinos have a generational disadvantage since they  tend to be in their schools years. Conversely, owning to the  number of Texans aged 65 and over grew at a faster rate, 65.7 percent, Latinos will have to pay for burden of  the aging Anglo population in the next 20 years.
Moreover, The Social Security Administration formula for retirees projects that it takes about 3 workers to pay for one retire person. Thus, in Texas, and using the same formula, in the next 15 years, it will take at least 2 young Latino workers to support services provided to  retired “Anglos” in Texas (by 2030, Latinos will be make 60% of total the labor pool in Texas). Texas has no state taxes so its revenues come mostly from sales and property taxes. Thus, since by 2020 Latinos will be about 53%  of state population and 70% by 2040.
However, apart from politics, in reality,  Republicans  in state of Texas do address the important of the growing gap between Latinos and Anglos, which is caused by a gap in generations.  For example, The Texas Education Coordinating Board, a state agency, has the  state plan called Closing the Gap. The Texas High Education Plan issues annual report on how the close the “Gap”  created by large aging population and the large demographic shift between Latinos and “Anglos”.  The Plan argues that:

TEXAS HIGHER EDUCATION: CLOSING THE GAPS: People with a college education earn larger salaries and see greater financial benefits over their lifetimes their higher earnings contribute to the state’s economic base through taxes and they are less likely to require public assistance. But Enrollments in the state’s public and independent colleges and universities are not keeping pace with the booming Texas population. There is a shortfall in the number of degrees and certificates earned. And, fewer degrees and certificates earned leads to a less-educated workforce. The state’s workers are not able to support a growing state economy, which is necessary for a higher quality of life for all Texans. Reaching the goal will also require increasing participation from every population group, but especially Hispanics. The White college enrollment rate of 5 percent continues to exceed the 3.7 percent participation rate for Hispanics and the 4.6 percent rate for Blacks. Hispanic and Black Texans will increase from 42 percent to 52 percent of the state’s population by 2015. Unless Texas significantly increases the enrollment rates of its entire people, demographic shifts will steadily reduce the number of students enrolling in higher education from the current 5 to 4.6 percent by 2015.

In 2008, Texas became a minority-majority state. Hispanics will account for more than 40 percent by 2015 of the state’s population and Whites will be 45 percent. Other groups, including Asian-Americans, will represent 4 percent. But the state’s Hispanic and Black populations have enrolled in higher education at rates well below that of the White population. The educational enrollment and success rates for all

TARGETS FOR CLOSING THE GAPS IN PARTICIPATION  Interim targets will define progress toward the participation goal:  Increase the overall Texas higher education participation rate from 5 percent to 5.2 percent (150,000 students) by 2005, to 5.5 percent (175,000 students) by 2010, and to 5.7 percent (180,000 students) by 2015.  Increase the higher education Increase the higher education participation rate for the Hispanic population of Texas from 3.7 percent to 4.4 percent (101,600 students) by 2005, to 5.1 percent (120,000 students) by 2010, and to 5.7 percent (120,000 students) by 2015.

Therefore, for Republican legislators in Texas who passed the Top Ten Percent bill evidently  foresee that future well-being of Texas economy depended on an increase of graduation rates among Hispanics to at least 5%  (120,000 students per year by 2015). Thus, notwithstanding what conservatives nationally may suggest against the Top Ten Percent, the Top Ten Percent  program is not  about purists political rhetorical conservative views,  but rather one tools for the state to create a skilled and highly educated Hispanic population since universities are not keeping pace with the booming Texas population; the state’s workers are not able to support a growing state economy without a highly educated population.

Moreover, education is the only tool Texas has to help the large booming Hispanic population who will share the burden of an aging “Anglo” population. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas did a report on how the only reason why Hispanics in Texas lag behind is because they are a generation behind, Hispanic families are younger.  The study shows that

Of those, 9.5 million reside in Texas, representing 37.6 percent of the state population. In Texas, the Hispanic population grew 42 percent between 2000 and 2010; nationally, it increased 43 percent. As a result, the Hispanic population’s well-being plays an increasingly important role in regional and national economic prosperity. Hispanic workers’ skills and education will help determine the future productivity of the labor force and competitiveness of U.S. industry.  Hispanic immigrants tend to have low levels of English fluency and education, which are correlated with poverty. Indeed, overall poverty statistics (depicted in Charts 1A and 1B) mask considerable progress among Hispanics born in the U.S., the native born. The poverty rate of native-born Hispanics has declined over the past four decades and was 7 percentage points less than that of foreign-born Hispanics in 2010 (Chart 2). The native born benefit from more education, better English proficiency and U.S. citizenship.  One contributor is Hispanic household heads’ relative youth—poverty tends to be more pervasive among younger families and declines over time. Because earnings rise with age at a decreasing rate, poverty will fall faster for Hispanics than for non-Hispanic whites, narrowing the gap in coming years.

As a result, the “young family” and  “non-native” poor English Skills factors are easily overcome among those young Latino Texans through education; those who have no language problems in the next generation move to middle-class.  Hence, these is the bloc of Latino Texans that the Top Ten Percent was created for by Republicans. Yes, conservatives may see this program as entirely camouflaged “reverse discrimination,” but for Texas this is more about real economic consequences than political  rhetoric, that is if the state does not educate a bloc workers that soon will be 60% of the state labor pool.

It will be interesting to see the mighty Heritage Foundation and the National Review try to make an ideological argument against Texas without taking into consideration real demographic changes in the state—which will double in 25 years –and the need to educate the labor pool.  Additionally, it will be equally interesting to see how Conservatives will square off with the all mighty anti-government Texas leaders like, Texas Attorney Greg Abbott, Gov. Rick Perry, and State Senator Dan Patrick (who has just been appointed as Chairman of the Education Committee in the Senate by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst); these Republicans have very strong views on education and they openly defend how the Texas Legislature manages its education policies.

White Mexicans v. “Minority” Latino  and Why such Label is Bad For Texas  

The Fisher v. UT case will not be the first time that the state of Texas deals with the complex issues of race and Mexican-Americans. For one  thing,  as Cal Jilson argues in His Book Lone Star Tarnished: A Critical Look at Texas Politics and Public Policy,  race and ethnicity have been profoundly important in American and Texas history,  and Texas used its constitutions and laws to define who was welcomed, who was excluded,….As the Anglo majority governed . But, for Mexican-Americans in Texas, who used to be segregated  into their own cultural enclaves, education policies was the first line of defense to challenged  unofficially state  segregation policies and demand an inclusion to regular classrooms offer to all “whites”. In other words, Mexican-Americans have already demanded in the past to be treated as equals, as “whites” in terms of education and in the Jury selection.

Moreover, Mexican-Americans, in the 1950s knew how important it was to remain within the “white” census box for categorization purposes. For example, in Hernandez v. Texas Mexican-American lawyers in Texas had to go to US Supreme Court to argue that “Mexicans are…members of and within the classification of the white race as distinguished from members of the Negro Race.” This was particularly important because if Mexican-Americans in Texas were put under a different category than “white,” they would have to be sent to segregated schools; so the case was effective in bringing attention on why Mexican-Americans needed to be under the “white” category.   Therefore,  Hernandez v. Texas was not only about race, but  about government categorization of people, and how detrimental, it was for some groups to be pushed out in the wrong category.  And Mexican-Americans in Texas and California knew that is misclassification could send Mexican student into, officially, segregated schools;   so they objected to be  categorized as a non-white “minority”.

Prior to the 1970s census, Mexican-Americans self-identified as whites; in an effort to distinguish and enumerate the “Hispanic” population as a whole using subjective indicators of Spanish origin or descent date back to the late 1960s.  During the Nixon years, The White House ordered the addition of a Spanish-origin self-identifier in the 1970 census “long-form” questionnaire and, to test it, the question was added to the November 1969 Current Population Survey (CPS) — the first time that a subjective item such as this was used in the collection of government statistics.   In 1977, as required by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget issued Directive 15: Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting to standardize the collection and reporting of racial and ethnic statistics and to include data on persons of “Hispanic origin.”  Moreover, prior to 1970 Mexicans were almost always coded as white for census purposes, and were deemed white by law (if not by custom) since the 19th century.

A similar study found that the problem  with  the “invented” Latino administrative label,  overtime and generation in the United States, the offspring of Latin American immigrants were by far the most likely to define their racial identities differently than their own parents. For example, while Latin Americans: about 3/5 of Latin parents defined themselves as white, compared with only 1/5 of their own children. As a result,  bureaucratic administrative labels  has pushed the offspring of Latinos immigrants into self-identifiers as  non-white “Hispanic”  label. Consequently, the problem with an administrative “Latino” self-identifier category within government—as it has occurred in Texas–is that, rather than help, it has pushed an old generation of Mexican-Americans in Texas into a Hispanic “minority” category that often puts Anglos on agony because now they foresee a “non-white” minority group of people becoming the majority of the state.

As a result,  the minority Hispanic label created by Republicans may have worked only for Liberals, Marxist pax-Hispanistas in the west coast, and black leaders, but  it has also tarnished the inclusion of Hispanics into the white category, which was the main objective of all the Mexican-American attorneys in Texas who fought in the case Hernandez v. Texas. Too,  this misclassification since the 1970s of Mexican-American as a “minority” or  Latinos (outside the “white”  category) in Texas now forces the states to create policies that may appear to favor a non-white minority  group of people who soon no  longer  will  be able to  identity as minority in the states; and therefore, this classification for Mexican-Americans as non-white finds opposition among conservative intellectuals in the nation and aging “Anglos” boomers in Texas who consistently argue that  the government  is engaging  in “reverse discrimination” against ” whites” in education.

On October 10th, Texas again will have chance to redefines in racial classification and it relations with Mexican-Americans who soon will become the undisputed majority no longer able to call itself “minority.”  Republicans will have an opportunity to make the argument that Latinos in Texas (Mexican-Americans) need to have access to higher education, not because they are a minority of Hispanics, but rather because Latinos soon will bear the burden of creating a tax base to provide revenue that will finance services for aging “Anglo” population in Texas who often refuse to see Mexican-Americans as part culture of Texas.

Fisher v. UT, will give all Texans, both Republican and Democrats, the opportunity to rearrange their racial classification in the state administrative category since now it is creating more confusion in the state and between Republican legislators in Texas and conservative intellectuals in country.  More importantly, it will give an opportunity to Republicans to show that they do promote policies to incorporate Mexican-Americans. And,  maybe Republican also can have an opportunity to explain to Right-wing Tea Parties that there cannot be a Texas prosperous economy in Texas without a large swath of highly educated Hispanics.

Fisher v. UT also will give Texas an opportunity to provide an argument that will alert conservatives, just like with baby boomers who benefited from large government program, that educating younger generations of Latinos  is similar to the  innovative policies created by the  Eisenhower to educate the baby-boomer generation. But the most fundamental question for Texas politics is how realistically is it to keep calling Latinos in the state non-white “minority?”.

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