Feb 29, 2024 - World

Latinas' college graduation rates spike over 20 years

U.S. Latinos with a Bachelor's degree or higher
Data: Latino Data Hub analysis of Census data; Chart: Axios Visuals

The share of U.S. Latinas with a four-year college degree has nearly quadrupled over the past two decades, though there are wide disparities depending on the country of origin, according to a new analysis.

Why it matters: A college degree is needed for most high-wage jobs and is seen as an important pathway to financial stability.

By the numbers: The percentage of college-graduate Latinas rose from 5% in 2000 to 20% in 2021, and the highest rates were found among those with  Venezuelan (57%), Argentine (46%) and Chilean (42%) origins, according to an analysis by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute released today.

  • Latinas with Central American and Mexican roots have the lowest. Only 14% of Honduran, 14% of Salvadoran and 12% of Guatemalan Latinas in the U.S. have degrees.
  • That figure is 16% for Latinas with Mexican ancestry.
  • A higher percentage of Latinas have degrees compared to Latino men, a trend seen in all races and ethnicities.

What they're saying: The varying drivers of immigration to the U.S. are part of the reason there are such disparities in educational levels among different Latina groups, says Misael Galdámez, senior research analyst at LPPI and co-author of the report.

  • For example, Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are often driven by economic need, while many Venezuelans are political refugees who already had college education back home.
  • Galdámez adds that historically, South American immigrants to the U.S. have a stronger grasp of English.
  • "When you have a grasp of English, that also makes it easier when you're in the United States to attain a college degree."

The intrigue: The analysis showed that 35% of Latinas who served in the military have a college degree, compared to 20% of non-veteran Latinas.

  • Considering past research that shows the main reason Latinos don't finish college is affordability, the GI Bill could be one reason why so many more Latina veterans have degrees, Galdámez says.
  • "It speaks to the importance of having programs that support Latinos pay for college."

The bottom line: "The main finding from this report has to do with a story of Latino success," Galdámez says.

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