Gilbert Cardenas, director of the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame University, adds that he's not sure if federal government support for Hispanic research has increased. He notes that historically, foundations have been more responsive to the needs of Hispanics and other minorities than has the national government. He says Presidents Nixon and Carter funded Hispanic research, while President Reagan cut it.
"I don't think that any administration has seen adequate funding commensurate to the need and the population," he states. Still, Mr. Cardenas is optimistic about the long-term prospect for funding Hispanic research.
"I think the Bush administration understands this and I think subsequent administrations, whether Republican or Democratic, will understand this," he says.
Academic centers and think tanks have tapped into funding from foundations, corporations, and state agencies. For example, the Pew Hispanic Center was established with a three-year grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, and specific research projects have been co-produced with the Multilateral Investment Fund and the Brookings Institution. Its biggest project, the National Survey of Latinos, is sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation. Likewise, the California-based Tomás Rivera Policy Institute has landed grants or other support from nearly 90 sponsors, mostly corporations and foundations.
At Notre Dame, Mr. Cardenas says, the Institute for Latino Studies has raised $10 million in external funds in four years, ranking it first among divisions in the university's College of Arts and Letters and second among all divisions on campus. "That has to be a first for any institution of higher education such as ours, where a Latino-focused center ranked so high," he says.
A bigger funding surge may follow. Commercial Hispanic marketing began to grow four or five years ago, and the public policy sector is just now beginning to catch up, Mr. Suro says. "The public sector is following and lagging by four or five years, but the level of interest is now growing very quickly in both parties and at all levels of government."
Good research on Hispanics requires special skills and knowledge. Writing a bilingual survey, for example, requires greater language and cultural understanding than a survey in English. Because of the challenges, "the extent and quality of data collected on Hispanics hasn't caught up with the demand," Mr. Suro observes.
Marta Tienda, professor of sociology and director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, says much of the new research on Hispanics suffers from an additive or column approach. "You're just adding another column [of data] rather than asking fundamental questions: How are [Hispanics] different, why are they different, does it matter, and who cares?" Currently, she is working on a multi-year study on how admissions policies affect minority college enrollment in Texas. The project is funded by the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation.
Harry Pachon, director of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, says one of the challenges in effectively reaching U.S. Hispanics, whether it's to collect information or to market goods or services, is appreciating the community's diversity. "We've been plagued by inadequate data on this population, and we've gone through a couple of phases," he says. The first phase involved the belief that Hispanics and African-Americans were basically the same, so both could be appealed to in the same way. The second phase was the belief that Hispanics could only be reached through Spanish-language media.
Most Popular Stories
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- 2014 World Cup Official Noisemakers Quieter than Vuvuzelas
- Saab Gets Back into the Game; U.S. Auto Sales Soar
- Dell Offers Undisclosed Number of Employee Buyouts
- Authorities Close to Deal with JPMorgan Chase over Madoff Response
- Apple Activates Customer-Tracking iBeacon
- 2013 Tech Gift Guide: iPad Mini Still Hot; Chromecast a Great Low-Cost Option
- It's No Yolk: Food-tech Startups Take Aim at Replacing Eggs
- A Biography of Jonathan Ive, Apple's Creative Chief