Susana Barragán is the economic analyst for UnidosUS, one of the most powerful Latin American organizations in the country, headquartered in Washington. The 26-year-old specialist, who arrived in the country from her native Peru at the age of 7, says that beyond the fact that the Latino vote went to the Democrats (“as it had to be estimated”, says – her), no party should rely on Hispanic support for the next election.
And he warned that despite the fact that the economy, which was not the main factor that defined the vote in these elections, hits Latinos more than any other group in the country, the outlook is not favourable. Far from improving, and given the imminent recession expected for 2023, it is once again the Hispanic community that will be the most affected. It rained on wet for Latinos nationwide.
Forgotten: Latinos have dissatisfied consumption that reaches $660,000 million
Barragán spoke exclusively with LPO to outline the economic demands of the Latin American community and how to work in the future on public policies that precisely incorporate the needs of the Hispanic community.
Finally, the Latino vote was not defined by the economy despite being bad due to high inflation.
It’s hard to talk about the Latino population as a whole, it’s just a term that identifies immigrants. But everyone comes with their stories. It is difficult to put them in a group. But yes, Latinos voted as usual. They saw themselves more in line with the Democrats, but I wouldn’t believe it will be like this every year. The bad thing is that Republicans and Democrats see Latinos as an undefined group that everyone thinks the same way. And it’s not like that. In the years to come, if they want to attract the Latino vote, they will have to achieve the priorities they demand.
How is the economic situation for Latinos specifically, with the disparity in wages, unemployment above the national average…
Employment remains a priority. The economy and work are one of the priorities for groups of Latinos, since these are usually jobs where they are not well paid, do not have access to benefits, etc. Unfortunately, they spend a large part of their monthly allowance on household expenses, and inflation has taken a toll. For example, rents have increased by up to 40% in some cities, and so has gasoline. Inflation has hit Latino households hard.
And is it because there is a wage gap that neither Democrats nor Republicans have been able to close?
-No matter how hard they work, they are always paid less than their fellow Americans. Hispanic women also receive less pay. Changing this is very important as it decreases the money they may have at the end of the month. Medical licensing is another big issue hurting Latinos. They pay taxes, but because of their immigration status, they are not eligible for many of the benefits that are there. There are also difficulties with retirement accounts, health care and improving worker protections.
Is there still financial discrimination against Latinos despite the fact that they have been a growing economic force in recent years?
-It’s like that. 20% of Latinos do not have access to credit. And they don’t have access to credit, not because they don’t know the system, but because of the way the financial system is designed. A credit score is calculated for each person and a bank sees this number and tells you if they are going to grant you the loan or not. It is difficult to obtain a credit history, especially when you have recently arrived in the country. And the score that the immigrant brings from his country is not valid here, even if he was very good. You have to have credit to get credit and Latinos can’t get in.
This is a big obstacle to the development of Latinos in the country.
– Here, credit is essential to progress and Latinos don’t get it. The immigration system should be fixed first. But also, change the way your credit is calculated. If I pay the rent well, it should be in the scoring, because it is a value that indicates how I pay my debts. Or the same with my electricity or water payment history. But the credit bureau doesn’t take it into account, and if you want them to take it into account, they have to pay. And at most Latinos have money to pay for food.
In short, many improvements have been made to the system to help create more accessible credit. Something similar happens with entrepreneurs. Access to capital for Latinos who want to start their business is essential. Credit is the foundation of the economic system of this country.
How do you assess the economic scenario to come with the possible recession and the impact on the Hispanic community?
From now on, not only inflation will be an important issue, but also the slowing down of the economy. The Fed has raised interest rates to reduce inflation, and in doing so, it is inevitable that the economy will slide into recession. And when it does, like in 2008, those hurt the most are Latinos and African Americans. In other words, the poorest. And when that happens, we’re going to find ourselves in a very complex situation for Latinos, because the first jobs that go are where Latinos are employed.
Something similar to what happened when the pandemic started when the first jobs to be lost were for Latinos. Will it be the same now but not because of COVID but because of the recession?
-Yes, and more than anything in the case of Latin women as we have seen in the pandemic. At that time, in April 2021, in that month alone, 400,000 jobs were lost and those were for Latina and Black women. And to date these jobs have not been fully recovered.
Even so, there is a significant level of resilience that makes Latinos a key contributor to the country’s economy. How is this explained?
-Many times we find that it is Latinos who drive the economy forward, but when it comes to thinking about public policy, it is precisely Latin American families who do not receive this support. If you want to have the most economic argument, including Latinos in policy design is the most logical thing if you want the country to grow and compete with countries like China and others that have grown much bigger. The United States has held on and it’s thanks to the growth of Latinos.
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