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Latinos Adapt to a Changing Economy

In the meantime, the economy of Indiana was undergoing substantial change. Jobs in manufacturing were decreasing, whereas those in services were increasing. Indiana saw the number of manufacturing jobs decline by 11 percent between 1970 and 1988. Many Latinos lost good-paying jobs with the restructuring of the economy. By the end of the 1970s unemployment as well as poverty rates among Latinos were on the rise. The percentage of Latino households living with less than $10,000 stood at 32 percent, and around 17 percent of Latino families were receiving public assistance income. The 1990 census found Latino families’ median income lower than the median for the rest of the population in Indiana ($34,187 vs. $40,096), but it was still higher than the median family income for Latinos nationwide ($24,156).16

The ability of Latinos to adapt to the economic changes and take advantage of the jobs being created by a service-and-knowledge-based economy was being hampered by their relative low levels of education. Adult Latinos had registered considerable, though still slow, gains in high school graduation rates between 1970 and 1980. The proportion of Latinos who completed high school had increased from 39 to almost 50 percent; but only in two cities, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, did the rate exceed 50 percent. On the other hand, the rates of graduation among young Latinos offered more hope of educational progress for the forthcoming decades. For Latinos in the 18-24 years-of-age group the rate of high school completion was 60 percent. However, they were still lagging significantly behind whites (80 percent) and blacks (65 percent).17 In the last three decades the number of Latinos attending college shows an upward trend. At Indiana University, in Bloomington, for example, there were 200 Latinos in attendance in 1975, but that number had changed to 800 by 2003.18

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