By Marshall Kirby, Public Policy Analyst

November 16, 2010

Several weeks ago a leading group in New York City (Community Service Society of New York) focusing on alleviating poverty published some startling findings for all stakeholders in the city, and especially the Latino and Puerto Rican community.  The report was picked up by New York Times columnist Sam Dolnick and can be viewed here.

To sum up their findings, Puerto Rican youth living in the city are significantly more economically disadvantaged than Dominicans, Mexicans, and other minority groups.  How are they disadvantaged?  Young Puerto Rican men aged 16-24 are two times more likely to be out of school and out of the labor force as similar aged NYC Mexican men, and Puerto Rican women are also two times as likely to be out of school and the labor force as similar Dominican women.   Even more troubling, a higher percentage of Puerto Rican families are living below the poverty line than are other Latino groups in NYC.  It seems that with these statistics comes a perfect storm of problems for the Puerto Rican community – impoverished families along with undereducated and underemployed youth in the workforce.

All stakeholders in the NY community must be concerned with these findings.  In order for the Puerto Rican community to flourish in the coming decades, this generation’s youth must take advantage of education, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities available to them.  Not only that, they need to set a positive example for future generations about the necessity and importance of education and hard work in a very competitive domestic and global labor market.  The city of New York has a vast history of successful Puerto Ricans and every major ethnic and racial group.  But one thing is very clear, that at the present time there is a divergence between Puerto Ricans and other groups in NYC.

While discrimination and structural issues are one area in which policy makers should focus their attention to this problem, the article also addressed a lack of entrepreneurial activity as another area of focus.  Stakeholders in the community should look for ways to educate and encourage young Puerto Ricans to become small business owners and to take ownership of their future and the future of their community.  Additionally, community leaders should be very keen to make sure the community is aware of government and non-profit programs available to those who need skill training, continuing education, or general help improving their conditions.