News Column

Handicapping The Hispanic Economy

November 2002, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

The question on everyone’s mind these days is "Which way the economy?"With that in mind, members of the Hispanic Business Magazine Board of Economists voiced their outlook at the group’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on September 19. Nearly 200 corporate economists, government officials, and diplomatic experts attended the invitation-only event, which was held at the headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Each economist presented data on one aspect of the U.S. Hispanic market, then concluded by making policy recommendations for improvement. The following is a synopsis of the recommendations.

Adela de la Torre
University of California at Davis
•Given the importance of education for wage and occupational mobility for Hispanics, governments need more funding for programs that support K–12 and postsecondary education.
•Given the limited asset portfolio of most Hispanic families, public and private programs should be in place to buffer the negative income consequences of a sustained economic downturn.
•In markets with occupational churning, innovative job training programs are needed to provide upward mobility into other tiers of the labor market.

Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda
University of California at Los Angeles
•The United States should shift the migration-remittance structure toward productive savings and investment, both in the immigrants’ home countries and in the regions where they seek work.
•Transnational policy should enhance trade and investment integration, with greater emphasis on small businesses. That would include integration of the small-business agenda into the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, expansion of the North American Development Bank, creation of transnational small-business support and financing networks, and cooperation with local governments and nongovernmental organizations.
•The current stock of undocumented workers should be fully legalized. A New Worker Visas program should regulate future flows of temporary and permanent immigrant workers. Such a program would provide labor rights, job portability, and adequate legalization to meet U.S. labor demand.
•Migrant-sending areas in Mexico should establish economic development mechanisms for addressing regional disparities and reducing out-migration pressures.

Henry Ingle
University of Texas at El Paso
•Hispanic chambers of commerce as well as city, state, and federal legislative bodies should develop targeted cooperative programs to set priorities relating to use of the Internet as a business tool. A national commission convened by the White House would give direction to this recommendation.
•Congress should work with Hispanic leaders and the telecommunications industry to accelerate the acquisition of Internet literacy skills among Hispanic and other minority entrepreneurs.
•Hispanic chambers of commerce as well as government agencies, educational entities, and the philanthropic community should fund culturally relevant programs to help Hispanics and other ethnic groups come to grips with the new technological world online.

Barbara Robles
University of Texas at Austin
•Citizenship, registration, and mobilization are key to increasing voting rates. States and Hispanic organizations need to educate Hispanics on the economic benefits of voting.
•Nationwide polls indicate that Hispanics vote on issues, not on party lines, and that the public policies of primary concern among Hispanics are education, jobs, immigration, and health care.
•Education and income are highly correlated with voting rates, so changes in state fiscal policies are needed to encourage minorities in education and wealth-building.

Marta Tienda
Princeton University
•Increase educational investment: Cut Hispanic high school dropout rate by 50 percent by 2010. Double the number of Hispanic college graduates by 2012.
•Tap political muscle: Naturalize all eligible legal residents. Organize campaigns to register Hispanic voters and mobilize them to vote.

J. Antonio Villamil
The Washington Economics Group
•Lower capital gains taxes to reward long-term investments and "patient" capital.
•Smooth the "boom-bust" economic and equity price cycles by avoiding sharp shifts in monetary/fiscal policies.
•Improve transparency and flow of investor information.
•Complete the "small-business-friendly" Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005 and WTO services agreement.
•Provide market information and export finance for small businesses.
•Create an online super-portal of national, state, and private sources of capital available to small and minority-owned businesses.
•Foster cooperative programs among the Small Business Administration, chambers of commerce, and states, in partnership with private organizations.


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