Patrick M OMalley

HISPANICS AND DRUG USE, IN THE UNITED STATES Hispanics in the United States are a large, growing, diverse group. More precisely, 1990 U.S. Census figures put the total at 22 million—of these, 63 percent are Mexican in origin, 11 percent Puerto Rican in origin, and 5 percent Cuban in origin. These three groups are the largest, yet another 14 percent of Hispanics are from the various Central and South American countries; still another 8 percent are classified as ''other Hispanic'' by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. In this essay the terms Hispanic and Latino are used interchangeably. Hispanic is commonly used in official statistics, and Latino is more widely used within the population itself.

The rapid growth of the Latino population within the United States also is noteworthy. It grew by 53 percent between 1980 and 1990. A high birth rate and continuous new immigration fuels this growth.

On average, Hispanics are younger than other minorities and other American population groups. When youthfulness is combined with POVERTY or discriminatory practices, the result sometimes is a disproportionate degree of conflict with law enforcement, especially in connection with drug abuse and drug dealing. The media coverage of these conflicts may lead many into a prejudicial belief about Latinos and drug use.

Although there are many notable exceptions, most Hispanics live in cities in the United States and, lacking other options, they are steadily crowding into the poorest areas of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other large cities. In 1990, 25 percent of Latinos in the United States lived in poverty compared with 31 percent of black families and 13 percent of all other Americans. Poor education, difficulty with the English language, and urban concentration can compound this impover-ishment—as it has for the other immigrant minorities in the United States—thereby contributing to the complexity of modern urban problems that they must face daily.

All segments of this highly diverse group are changing rapidly. Documented and undocumented new immigration combined adds about 500,000 arrivals each year, and this flow is increasing. Many of the newcomers crowd into old barrios, and this reduces the quality of life for older residents. Great pressure is therefore exerted on local educational services, health resources, job sources, and jobtraining services—a pressure that is compounded by problems of acculturation. Many Mexican-American communities predate the Mexican-American War of the 1840s, but other Latino communities have become established in significant numbers only since World War II. Puerto Ricans, for example, settled mostly in the large cities of the Rust Belt in the late 1940s and early 1950s, forming a particularly large concentration in New York City. Like

Mexican Americans (Chicanos), they have been sharply affected by recent shifts in the American economy that relegate poorly educated workers to poorly paid service jobs. Central and South Americans are found in diverse locations, with concentrations in New York, Houston, and Los Angeles, tending to work at the bottom of the labor market. Cubans, who are concentrated primarily in Miami, have been helped both by a vigorous enclave economy (with Cubans owning many of the enterprises and hiring fellow Cubans) and by Miami's emergence as a center for Latin American trade.

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