The Impact of Negative Statistics on the Latino Brand

Hispanic College enrollment hit an all time high in 2010.

This is terrific news for our country. Given that 19% of the 16- to 24-year-olds is Hispanic, a 24% increase in college enrollment straight out of high school is an extremely positive occurrence. According to a new report by the Pew Research Center from 2009 to 2010 the number of Hispanic students who enrolled in college grew by 349,000.

We should all be celebrating, discussing these findings in depth in the media, and coming up with more strategies to help these youngsters graduate from college in a timely fashion. Most importantly, we should make sure that the private and public sectors continue to collaborate in the difficult task of offering these new graduates good career opportunities.

Time magazine recently ran an article by Joe Klein about the New Greatest Generation in reference to the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are returning from tours of duty with a set of values and leadership skills that they are now putting to great use in a divided country that seems to have lost its way. It's a wonderful piece that gives its due to service men and women and builds on a very positive brand that men and women in uniform have always had in this country.

My question is: why don't we also consider the new generation of Latino students ages 15 to 24 who represent almost 8 million people another New Greatest Generation? Why haven't the leaders of our country recognized yet that young Latinos (now 25% of newborns in this country) who are enrolling in college in huge numbers are a vital generation for us to nurture, support and mentor so that they can help America retain its position as a global leader?

Unfortunately, good news fizzles quickly and we switch back to rehashing mostly negative statistics about Latinos: higher high school and college dropout rates, higher unemployment rate, lower participation in senior level positions, deportations of undocumented workers, and so on. The only exception to the negative stories seems to be news related to Latinos' fast population growth, a panacea for marketers looking for new consumers in a tough economy.

I'm well aware that these negative statistics are true; and many organizations, companies and individuals (including yours truly) are relentlessly working on improving some of these undeniable realities. But the press's myopic focus on negative data about the Latino community has an impact on the Latino community's brand and on our ability to become power players.

In part, the bias starts with the kinds of studies that research organizations of all political stripes put together and that form the basis of the media reporting. More often than not, the focus of the research seems to favor problems over accomplishments, things that Latinos are failing at, lacking, or lagging behind in rather than those where they excel, or at which they are an example to be followed. For instance, Latinos have the second-to-lowest percentage of divorce; they are nimble entrepreneurs responsible for opening new small businesses at a rate three times as fast as the national average; and, in a global economy, most of them speak at least two languages. But how often do you hear about that?

I wonder what would happen if more of the research conducted by organizations and universities were to focus on topics such as how successful Latino college graduates overcame common obstacles faced by Latinos, the impact of new Latino businesses on the economy of small town America, or the positive influence of Latino family and traditional values on the values of this country.

Given the limited coverage that positive stories of Latinos get in the general media, the constant infusion of negative statistics contributes to the false perception that there are few positive aspects to be highlighted about Latinos.

Efforts to highlight Latino perspectives by platforms such as the Huffington Post with its "Latino Voices" are important steps in the right direction, but it is critical that their respective general market platforms successfully integrate more of the positive stories that appear on their Latino-focused pages.

Could the negative statistics related to Latinos that bombard us daily be creating the perception that the Latino youth is not worth investing in? That they can't be charged with the leadership of this nation?

It is in our national interest to highlight Latino accomplishments and statistics that bring attention to the many areas in which we excel. This will be the best way to inspire the generation of young Latinos on whose shoulders America's future rests, and the only way in which non-Latinos will realize that this generation is worth their investment.