Imagine it is the year 2060: Latinos represent 30 percent of the total US population, the median age among American-born Latinos is 18 years, and the country is thriving.
That’s because “back in 2015,” the United States foresaw the country weakening as the mostly white baby boomers retired and the aging of the population accelerated. Corporations, governments, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, investors, and educators realized that the skilled labor force would shrink, and innovation and growth would suffer without a new vision of adaptability and inclusivity. A downward trend was en route that would deplete the country’s talent pools and create gaps in its workforce. All this would happen while China, India, and other nations advanced globally.
Meanwhile, Latinos had become the nation’s youth engine, a population segment of vital importance to the US economy. Tuning in to the early-warning signs of demographic shift, the country came through with new integration models. Latino college graduation rates ballooned, as did Latino wealth, income, representation in the professions, on boards of directors, in government, and in thriving businesses. Integration flourished and innovation blossomed. This was a story of adaptability. And organizations of all types understood that this was not only about Latinos. This was about the future of US economic security and prosperity. It was about innovating, creating, buying, selling, paying taxes, and stimulating socio-economic growth—aided by a viable and vital workforce.
Back to the present
This is reality; it is the year 2015. While the Latino population is growing, the Pew Research Center reports that despite recent increases in enrollment, Latinos still lag behind other racial and ethnic groups in college graduation. In 2012, 14.5 percent of Latinos ages 25 and older had graduated from college, compared to 51 percent of Asians, 34.5 percent of whites and 21.2 percent of Blacks. There is a lifetime differential of more than $800,000 in income generation between those with a college degree and those with only a high school diploma.
Representation of Latinos in leadership positions in all sectors is also disproportionately low, ranging from three to four percent in corporations, nonprofits, education, government, and other areas. Philanthropic foundation giving to Latino causes has remained stagnant at 1.3 percent of all giving for the last 10 years, and Latino household wealth is one-tenth that of non-Latino, white households.
Pair these facts with the clear demographic shift that is currently underway. The US non-Latino, white population will reach its height in 2024, and subsequently decline in numbers. By 2043, the United States will be a majority-“minority” nation. And notably, the Latino population will increase by more than 100 percent between now and 2060, when one in three people will be Latino.
It’s time to embrace the idea of the fictional future I outlined in my first few paragraphs and work toward making it a reality.
What We Can Do
There are a number of steps that we can take now to bring about future economic prosperity in the United States.
Consider, for example, the potential impact if affluent Latinos coalesce around a few central goals. What if Latino “one percenters” took the Warren Buffett giving pledge as an example, and mobilized their resources? The potential power of Latino-focused donor circles and online fundraising drives—an expression of the democratization of philanthropy—is also exciting.
I urge other philanthropic institutions to broaden their focus areas to include the Latino population, joining in sustainable collaborations to bolster the future backbone of our economy.
In the coming decades, today’s young Americans will inherit more than $40 trillion. These Gen X and Gen Y inheritors appear committed to dedicating large portions of their wealth to philanthropy, and they express interest in results-oriented investments and direct engagement in issues, with an emphasis on solving problems. I encourage them to keep Latino causes in their sights.
Business incubators and trainings for Latino entrepreneurs are emerging in different settings, including universities. However, the preponderance of businesses started by Latinos still consists of micro-enterprises. While these are growing at twice the national average, only about 10 percent of Latino businesses employ workers. Incentives and support for high-impact business development is emerging in a handful of sectors, but business leaders and venture capitalists would do well to increase access to networks and provide incentives, support, and relationship-building opportunities to Latino entrepreneurs across the board.
Business leaders, nonprofit leaders, and educators’ efforts to develop and mentor future leaders among the Latino population will contribute to the long-term success of their organizations. There is a dearth of Latinos in high-ranking positions on boards in corporations, foundations, and even the nonprofit sector as a whole. But as the National Academies of Sciences shows, diversity drives results upward. Every step we take to further future leaders will likely have a positive return on investment.
Finally, to accelerate and enhance philanthropy, boost Latino business development and propel Latinos into leadership roles, I issue a challenge to my neighbors in the tech industry in Silicon Valley. I believe that they can deploy their unparalleled technological capacities to create vehicles for unprecedented idea-generation across sectors and groups—strategic crowdsourcing would open up the field for collaboration and co-creation. Engaging under-served Latinos would democratize the process and aid in identifying the most promising solutions.
I have put just a few ideas on the table. There are surely many more. What would outside-the-box thinking on this issue look like? What are two or three immediate new practices that philanthropy, businesses, and nonprofits can undertake now to advance and help secure the economic future of the United States? Who wants to convene minds to respond to this historic population shift? Who in Silicon Valley is up to the challenge? Gen X and Y philanthropists, techies, businesses, educators, social-changers, and underserved populations can co-create the future. Let’s get started.