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Report: opportunity eluding Hispanics

Despite a 58 percent growth in their population in the United States in the 1990s, Hispanics still live in segregated neighborhoods and are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to own homes, save money or have health insurance, a new report says.

The report outlines gaps in opportunities for Hispanics and proposes an agenda for local, state and national leaders to correct inequities in homeownership, education, job opportunities and health care. The report is being released today at the National Council of La Raza's annual conference.

The conference brings together government officials, and business and community leaders to discuss policy issues.

More than highlighting Hispanics' growing numbers, La Raza wants to show people "what's really important is how we are doing," said Sonia Perez, the report's author. "The time of ignoring Latinos as a population is over."

The nation's Hispanic population grew from 22.4-million in 1990 to 35.3-million in 2000, census data show. It's also a young population: More than a third of Hispanics are under 18.

While growth has occurred in states with historically large Hispanic populations, such as California, New York and Florida, it's also taken place in the Midwest. Wisconsin's Hispanic population has risen 107 percent since 1990, Iowa's is up 153 percent, and Minnesota's grew 166 percent, La Raza notes.

La Raza wants to turn the spotlight on how Hispanics failed to reap benefits of the 1990s economic boom. It proposes focusing on four issues:

Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to own their homes, with 46 percent of Hispanics owning their home in 1999, compared to 72 percent of non-Hispanic whites. They are also more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods, the report says. Providing more funding for first-time home buyers' counseling services, ending racial profiling and curbing police abuse will create stronger and safer neighborhoods, La Raza says.

About one in three Hispanic children was enrolled in preschool, compared to more than half of non-Hispanic whites, the report says. Hispanic children also were more likely to attend segregated schools with poorer facilities and resources, and less likely to complete high school.

Hispanics are more likely to work in low-wage jobs, such as food preparation, service or cleaning and maintenance jobs. They're also less likely to have pension plans, according to the report.

Working Hispanic adults and their children are less likely to have health insurance. La Raza wants a program that provides insurance to low-income children expanded to include their parents.

La Raza is a private, non-profit Hispanic advocacy organization formed in 1968.