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 VOL. 23, NO. 9NOVEMBER 14, 1997 

Population Soars, Income Drops for City Dominicans


At a press conference in Low Faculty Room Monday were, from left: Provost Jonathan R. Cole; Yolanda Moses, president of CCNY; Francisco Rivera-Batiz of Columbia and Ramona Hernandez of CUNY. Record Photo by Joe Pineiro.
The income of Dominicans living in New York City declined by close to 23 percent between 1990 and 1996, according to Dominican New Yorkers: A Socioeconomic Profile, 1997, a study released Monday by Columbia's Latino Studies Program and CUNY's Dominican Studies Institute at City College.

  Analyzing data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the study found that the income of the Dominican population was the lowest of all the major racial and ethnic groups in New York City; that the community's unemployment rate has shot up to 19 percent, and that, at 45 percent, the percentage of Dominicans living below the poverty line is more than double the City's overall average.

  The study was co-authored by Francisco Rivera-Batiz, director of Columbia's Latino Studies Program and professor of economics and education at Teachers College, and Ramona Hernandez, professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and researcher at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute at City College.

  The report paints a dismal picture of the socioeconomic situation of Latinos in New York City. "The nineties have been the equivalent of the Titanic for Latinos and African-Americans in New York City," said Rivera-Batiz. "Although the decade of the eighties had resulted in significant economic gains, these have been largely reversed in the last seven years."

  At 495,000, Dominicans have been the City's fastest growing ethnic group in the 90s, now ranking behind Puerto Ricans as the second largest Hispanic group. This population increase—due largely to immigration—has resulted in as many as 104,000 new students in the City's public school system.

  Many of the reasons for the severe decline in the economic health of the Dominican community can be tied to its heavy reliance on the shrinking manufacturing sector; more than 25 percent of the Dominican labor force is employed in manufacturing.

  "The economic recession of the late 80s and early 90s has impacted the Dominican population in an extremely negative way," Hernandez said. "The low and declining earnings of unskilled workers in New York constitute a formidable barrier for the Dominican population. And the decline of manufacturing as a sector of employment has had a devastating impact on Dominican workers."

  Another issue addressed by the report is the underrepresentation of Dominicans in New York City's public sector workforce. Only 2 percent of the municipal workforce is Dominican, yet they are 5 percent of the City's population. Silvio Torres-Saillant, director of CUNY's Dominican Studies Institute at CCNY, sees a need for greater access to the public sector for the Dominican community.

  "Less than 10 percent of all Dominican workers were employed in the public sector in 1990, compared to over 17 percent for the rest of the population. The absence of Dominican workers in government employment should be a matter of immediate attention to policymakers in the City," he said.

  Dominicans in New York are also adversely affected by their comparatively low educational attainment. In 1996, as many as 54.7 percent of all Dominican New Yorkers 25 years of age or older had not completed high school; only 4 percent had completed college. Barring a shift in the economy over the next few years, improving the economic condition of New York's Dominican community will require substantial investments in education. The report recommends developing strategies to address school overcrowding and the special needs of immigrant children and, for adults, providing job training and classes in literacy and English proficiency.

  Despite relatively low educational attainment rates and the challenges presented by overcrowding in the public schools, education is the subject of one of the report's few optimistic findings.

  According to the profile, most Dominican children in public schools are highly motivated. In a survey of students in New York City public schools, 69.4 percent of Dominican children indicated that their classes were "very interesting," compared to 49 percent of non-Dominican students. In addition, 93 percent of Dominican students saw schooling as a means for economic improvement.

Facts from 'Dominican New Yorkers':

  • Forty-five percent of New York City's Dominican population lived in households that were under the poverty line in 1990 (or 96), close to double the rate in the City overall.

  • Between 1990 and 1997, the Dominican population in New York rose from 332,000 to 495,000.

  • Sixty percent of all Dominicans in the United States (832,000) live in New York City.

  • As many as 104,000 Dominican children are enrolled in New York City public schools.

  • In 1990, more than 25 percent of the Dominican labor force was employed in manufacturing. The comparable figures are 10.6 percent for non-Hispanic Whites and 8.2 percent for non-Hispanic Blacks.

  • The unemployment rate of Dominican men and women in New York City was approximately 19 percent in 1997, close to twice the overall rate.

  • In 1996, the average annual earning of Dominican male workers was $15,495, less than half the City's overall rate of $37,352. For Dominican women, the average annual salary was $13,250, compared with $26,294 for the overall New York City female workforce.

  • As much as 54.7 percent of all Dominican New Yorkers 25 years of age or older had not completed high school in 1996.