The gap between White and Hispanic poverty has remained stable for decades despite dramatic changes in the size and composition of the two groups. The gap, however, conceals crucial differences within the Hispanic population whereby some leverage education and smaller families to stave off poverty while others facing barriers to citizenship and English language acquisition face particularly high rates. In this paper, we use Decennial Census and American Community Survey data to examine poverty rates between Hispanic and non-Hispanic, White heads of household. We find the usual suspects stratify poverty risks: gender, age, employment, education, marital status, family size, and metro area status. In addition, Hispanic ethnicity has become a weaker indicator of poverty. We then decompose trends in poverty gaps between racial/ethnic groups. Between 1980 and 2010, poverty gaps persisted between Whites and Hispanics. We find support for a convergence of advantages hypothesis and only partial support (among Hispanic noncitizens and Hispanics with limited English language proficiency) for a rising disadvantages hypothesis. Poverty-reducing gains in educational attainment alongside smaller families kept White-Hispanic poverty gaps from rising. If educational attainment continues to rise and family size drops further, poverty rates could fall, particularly for Hispanics who still have lower education and larger families, on average. Gains toward citizenship and greater English language proficiency would also serve to reduce the Hispanic-White poverty gap.
Race and Social Problems