Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ethnic economic gaps are more pronounced in Nashville

This November story in the Tennessean reported that Hispanic households in Nashville earned $33,376 in 2005, compared to Asian household earnings of $57,678, white household incomes of $50,333, and $27,153 for African-American households in Nashville. The story cited a Census Bureau study, which found that racial disparity is worse here than for the average U.S. city.

The wage disparity must be fueled, at least in part, by low-income immigrants from Mexico. According to this article in the New York Times, "[a]t least one-third of the foreign-born in the United States come from Mexico, census figures show," and "[i]n the United States new Mexican immigrants mostly earn poverty wages by American standards, a median income of only $300 a week, the Pew Hispanic Center reported last year. But that is as much as four times what they would make for similar work at home."

Even though Hispanics have a proportionately lower household income, the Tennessean article describes what may be a path to greater income equality:

"Marilyn Robinson said the key to stemming the economic disparities is to encourage business ownership."

"'If you work hard and have access to business opportunities, then you can generate wealth,' said Robinson, who is president of the Nashville branch of the NAACP."

That's good news for Hispanics, who as of 2002 were "opening businesses at a rate three times faster than the national average." (see this column by Tony Snow). Snow and others dispel the notion that the statistics about immigrants should justify a punitive immigration policy (see commentary by Lawrence Downes and Anna Quindlen).

Other gaps experienced by Hispanics include health care (reported in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook in this March 2005 article) and mortgage rates (reported in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook in this March 2004 article).

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