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Complexities surround Latino 'wealth gap' as MN efforts take hold

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023   

A new report found factors like geography play a role in assessing Latino wealth gaps in the U.S.

The findings are from the Brookings Institution, which said there are regional differences between Latino wealth, assets, and debt.

Elvis Rivera, a member of the group Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action, has helped lead financial literacy classes in the Twin Cities. The group's Workers Center also assists with job training and resume building.

Echoing the report, he said there is nuance in helping Latinos overcome wealth barriers, noting there are often multiple generations in a household. He argued younger family members deserve prosperity, too, and it should not be assumed they are limited to low-wage jobs.

"We desire dignity, we desire power," Rivera pointed out. "And we desire to be catered to as it relates to laws, policies and resources, so that we can thrive also."

The Brookings report looked at six states, not including Minnesota. An example showed Illinois has the smallest Latino wealth gap, while it is substantially larger in New York. A separate state summary revealed southwest Minnesota has the highest concentration of Latino residents. It is an area where food manufacturing jobs are prominent, underscoring calls from advocates to create more opportunities.

Whether it is a food processing plant or a construction site, Rivera noted they are also having to respond to an environment where many Latino workers are still being taken advantage of.

"For example, wage theft is something that we're heavily working on addressing," Rivera explained. "Because we tend to see that a lot of folks that are brand new to the state may encounter job insecurity, exploitation."

The group's efforts coincide with recently adopted wage-theft laws in Minnesota.

Rivera, who has a background in finance, said he had to overcome misconceptions about his own ceiling as a working professional. He feels those beliefs still exist among employers and financial institutions. He stressed more culturally appropriate marketing and engagement efforts as Latinos try to build new lives here.

Disclosure: COPAL MN contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Environmental Justice, Immigrant Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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