Greenville’s growing Hispanic population

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In recent years, the Hispanic population in Greenville County has grown significantly, from 4 percent of the population in 2000, to 9 percent in 2017. While many Hispanic individuals are finding ways to succeed in their new community, most have faced obstacles to full participation and prosperity. To cultivate a community where all can thrive, forward-thinking leaders needed a better understanding of the assets and needs of Hispanic residents.

To provide this information, the Hispanic Alliance conducted a comprehensive needs assessment study evaluating the current state of the Hispanic/Latino community in Greenville County. Dr. Courtney Quinn and Dr. Matt Cohen of Furman University assisted, with funding provided by the Community Foundation of Greenville, the Graham Foundation, and the Gilreath Foundation.

“The Hispanic Alliance is a trusted partner of the Community Foundation, United Way and other organizations that want to understand the unique contributions of Hispanic families to Greenville,” said Bob Morris, president of the Community Foundation. “Data is the basis for informed decision making, so a study was needed to highlight the challenges we face in taking advantage of rich cultural traditions that are not well-known and often overlooked.”

Adela Mendoza, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance, said the support of these key philanthropic partners signals the community’s commitment towards building diversity and looking to the future with a clear understanding of the area’s evolving demographics.

“The report provides reliable information so that policymakers, corporations, and organizations can form educated opinions and prepare for the future based on real data,” she said. “Whether it is the school district increasing its capacity to engage parents, or local industries strategizing to create targeted pipelines to prepare workers for jobs, this study gives insight that can have a lasting impact and move the community forward.”

The survey focused on the availability of culturally and linguistically appropriate resources, as well as perceived barriers to access in four key sectors: education, financial stability, healthcare, and legal services. The report is available now and can be viewed at HispanicAllianceSC.com.

Since the majority of households in the study have children, education is a key area of concern. Fifty percent of parents with children ages 5-12 experience a language barrier in communicating with their child’s teacher, and 88 percent of households with high-school-aged children feel they don’t know enough about the application process to help their student qualify for college. Although participation in formal preschool is low among this population, most parents—92 percent—take the time to read to their children at home in English, Spanish, or both.

An especially positive finding was that 86 percent of respondents feel welcome in Greenville. Most said they would feel comfortable calling the police if they were the victim of a crime and believe they would be treated fairly.

However, opportunities for improvement remain: The percentage of Hispanic households living below the federal poverty level in Greenville County is at least 21 percent, compared to the national rate of 12.7 percent. Over 40 percent of respondents have experienced discrimination due to language differences or their racial appearance. Participants also reported low levels of access to health care, with 61 percent of adults lacking health insurance.

Addressing these challenges will require systemic change, community partnerships, and creative interventions. The findings from this study can be used to form a blueprint for collaboration and ensure that no populations are left behind, Mendoza said.

“Over the past few decades, Greenville has become an internationally-recognized city. A strategic vision for the future and innovative partnerships across sectors have put our growing community on the map,” she said. “Building on this foundation through collective efforts and inclusive leadership will lead to a new era of unprecedented opportunities and all-encompassing growth.”

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