Latinos in Silicon Valley are facing exacerbated quality of life challenges in the wake of the pandemic, including education gaps, worsening housing conditions and health disparities, according to a new report.
The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley’s 2023 Latino Report Card, unveiled Tuesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, shows that even as some gains have been made by Latinos, concerning trends persist.
Ron Gonzales, president and CEO of the foundation and former mayor of San Jose, said the report card is like a physical exam, outlining the general well-being of the community, and shows how much ground needs to be made up.
“This is the medical exam for 25% of our population, for one out of every four people who live in this region, who live on your block, or you work with, or you have service your home or your business,” Gonzales told San José Spotlight.
The report card is the third the organization has produced, including its first in 2011, and a follow up in 2018, looking at how Latinos fare in education, health, financial stability, housing and environmental sustainability.
In addition to distilling data collected from a variety of state and federal databases, the report also includes results from surveys of nearly 800 residents in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
This report card is the first issued since the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affected Latinos and disadvantaged communities in the Bay Area. A focus of the report is the myriad ways Latinos’ attainment was hit by the pandemic, including in education, where more than half of those surveyed said their families had obstacles to accessing online learning.
Fewer dropouts, less youth proficiency
High school dropout rates for Latino students in Santa Clara County declined from 18% to 14% from 2017 to 2022, while in San Mateo County it remained steady at 9%. And while Silicon Valley Latino students are generally increasingly ready for college, other educational trends are troubling.
The percentage of Latino students in Santa Clara County meeting or exceeding eighth grade math standards dropped from 24% in the 2016-17 school year to 17% in the 2021-22 school year. In San Mateo County, it dropped from 26% to 19%. Meanwhile, about 48% of students in Santa Clara County and 45% in San Mateo County met or exceeded those standards.
In the same time frame, the percentage of Latino students in Santa Clara County meeting or exceeding third grade literacy standards decreased from 31% to 29%, and in San Mateo County dropped from 31% to 27%, according to the report. In 2021-22, more than half of all students in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties met or exceeded those standards.
Cris Ramirez, director of the Eastside Education Initiative, said the Silicon Valley community should celebrate gains made, but closely examine what isn’t working.
“There’s feelings of guilt and sadness in the work that we’re doing, that we’re letting people down,” Ramirez told San José Spotlight. “But there are also moments of hope. We are doing some good, there is some movement, but it’s not enough yet.”
Education for Latinos in Silicon Valley received a “D” grade in this year’s report, down from 2018’s “C” mark.
Other areas of focus also showed some bright spots, but overall disparities continue to harm the Latino community. Median household incomes for Latinos continue to increase across the region, for instance, but are notably lower compared to income for all people in the region.
And the incomes earned by Latino households are not enough, as nearly 60% are not economically self-sufficient, the report said.
Rising homelessness, overcrowding
Latinos are disproportionately experiencing homelessness, making up 47% of the estimated homeless population in both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in 2022, while representing only 25% of the overall population.
In 2021, 17% of Latinos with housing lived in overcrowded conditions, defined as having one or more people per room in a home, including living rooms or other spaces. That rate is much higher than the 3% of non-Latinos in the region in those conditions.
Rebecca Ann Gallardo, a San Jose real estate agent, said it’s clear that stable, affordable housing for Latino families, along with better transit and child care support are needed.
“The report card is not the grading of Latinos, the report card is the grading of the system and its failures,” Gallardo said.
Latina teen birth rates are also down significantly in Silicon Valley from 2016 to 2020, but still higher than other non-Latino teens. About 20% of Latino children from age 0-11 were considered overweight in 2020, compared with only 12% of non-Latino children.
The report card increased the grade for health from 2018’s “D” to a “C” in 2023.
Gonzales said collaboration will be needed to turn negative trends around. He said leaders need to recognize problems called out in the report, “develop specific remedies, and commit to long-term change with practical policies and investments that will help our Latino community help itself.”
“This report card is a call to action to every school, not just a few, not just the ones where the white kids go, but every school, every employer and every one of you who work for a company in Silicon Valley, and every city hall and every county building,” Gonzales said.
A full copy of the report card and more information can be found at the Hispanic Foundation website.