(CN) — In the midst of the pandemic, a majority of Hispanic Americans and immigrants saw better opportunities in the United States compared with their ancestors’ countries of origin, according to a Pew study published Thursday.
In March 2021, Pew asked 3,375 Hispanic adults living in the 50 states and Washington D.C. to compare life in the U.S. with where their ancestors came from. As of 2019, a third of the nearly 60 million Hispanics living in the United States were born in another country.
Overall more than three-quarters of survey respondents said the opportunity to get ahead was better in the U.S., along with better conditions for raising kids.
“One community that does hold the American dream is here in Gallatin County and Bozeman, they find it something worth crossing the border for,” said Bridget Kevane, professor of Latino Studies at Montana State University, who works closely with Honduras immigrants.
“Speaking with parents, it's all about education, all about providing better opportunities for their kids,” Kevane added. “The families that I advocate on behalf of, they live in two-bedroom trailers with lots of family members, but the parents come home after a long day of working in construction or cleaning hotels, and their kid comes home from school with a spark in their eyes, and the American dream is kept alive somehow.”
While a majority of respondents found better access to health care in the U.S., people who had been in the U.S. less than 10 years were just as likely to say health care was the same or better in their homeland.
The survey highlights several differences in perception for opportunities between immigrants who lack a green card or have recently arrived, and the Hispanics who have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years or over several generations. Newcomers are slightly less likely to prefer the U.S. over their birthplace compared to immigrants who have settled long term or Hispanics born and raised in the U.S.
Take the 10-point difference between the number of Hispanics who say immigrants are treated better in the U.S. compared to their birthplace: 39% of naturalized citizens agree, while only 29% of Hispanics lacking a green card do.
Nearly half of respondents said the strength of family ties are better in the old country.
“Migration itself is a disruptive process, so of course family ties are going to be seen as stronger in one’s country of origin,” said Alan Aja, chair of the department of Puerto Rican and Latino studies at Brooklyn College in the City University of New York.
“In the United States, we have radically diminished or disinvested in public goods, health care, education, transportation, you name it,” Aja said. “What that does is it that puts a strain on family resources and research shows families are more likely to be disrupted in the context of inequality.”
Aja also noted the limitations of any broad survey of Hispanics in America.
“We're making broad generalizations about the Latinx community when this group is not a political or economic monolith,” he said.
The survey is also limited to broad opinions held by Hispanics living in the U.S., while those who immigrated and have since left are notably absent.
While 11.4 million people have immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico over the last 50 years, the U.S. also counts as Hispanic people with roots in Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Even though Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens are birth, the survey pooled individuals born on the island with immigrant respondents from other countries.
According to the researchers, “on many points [Puerto Rico-born] attitudes, views and beliefs are much closer to those of Hispanics born outside the U.S. than of Hispanics born in the 50 states or the District of Columbia.”
Regardless of where they were born or what their citizenship status is, more than 78% of Latinos say if given the choice all over they would still choose to move to the U.S. In the same scenario, however, 22% of immigrants who do not hold a green card say they would have stayed in their country of origin or moved somewhere else, compared to 11% of green card holders and 13% of naturalized citizens.
All in all, the study authors see optimism in the majority of results.
“What's interesting is that they see the U.S. as a place for opportunity to get ahead, despite the economic impact of Covid-19 and the recession and the slow recovery for some parts of the U.S. economy which have relatively higher concentrations of Hispanic workers like hospitality,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of race and ethnicity research at Pew. “Even in light of this, Latinos are still positive about life in the U.S.”Follow @bright_lamp
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