Interview
"A recession is inevitable and when it happens, the first jobs that will be lost are those of Latinos"
Susana Barragán, economic analyst at UnidosUS, spoke exclusively with LPO. How the economy impacted the Latino vote, the limitations to get credit and the impact of the recession on the Latino economy in 2023.

Susana Barragán is the economic analyst for UnidosUS, one of the strongest Latino organizations in the country headquartered in Washington. The 26-year-old specialist, who came from her native Peru at the age of 7, says that beyond the fact that the Latino vote has gone to the Democrats ("as it was expected," she says), no party can rely on having Hispanic support for the next elections.

And she warned that despite the fact that the economy -which was not the main factor that defined the vote in these elections- is hitting Latinos more than any other group in the country, the prospects are not favorable. Far from improving, and given the imminent recession expected for 2023, once again the Hispanic community will be the most affected. It never rains but it pours for Latinos in this country.

Olvidados: los latinos tienen un consumo insatisfecho que alcanza los $ 660.000 millones

Barragán spoke exclusively with LPO to outline the economic demands that the Latino community has and how to work in the future on public policies that precisely incorporate the needs of the Hispanic community.

"A recession is inevitable and when it happens, the first jobs that will be lost are those of Latinos"

Finally, the Latino vote was not defined by the economy despite the fact that it was bad due to high inflation.

It is difficult to talk about the Latino population as a whole, it is simply a term that identifies immigrants. But each one has his/her own stories. It is difficult to classify them into a group. But yes, Latinos voted as always. They were more in line with the Democrats, but I would not trust that every year it will be like that. The bad thing is that Republicans and Democrats look at Latinos as an undefined group, that they all think the same. And it is not like that. In the coming years, if they want to attract the Latino vote, they will have to realize the priorities that they have been demanding.

20% of Latinos do not have access to credit. And they do not have access to credit not because they do not known the system, but because of how the financial system is designed.

How is the economic situation of Latinos, having in mind the disparity in wages, unemployment higher than the average for the country...

Employment remains a priority. The economy and work are priorities for the Latino group, because this kind of jobs are not well paid, they do not have access to benefits, etc. Unfortunately, they spend a lot of their monthly allowance on household expenses, and inflation has hit a lot. For example, rent rose up to 40% in some cities, and gas too. Inflation hit Latino household hard.

And that is due to a wage gap that neither Democrats or Republicans have known how to reduce, isn't it?

No matter how hard they work, they are always paid less than their fellow Americans. Hispanic women get paid less too. Changing this is very important, because it affects the quantity of money they will have at the end of the month. Medical leave of absence are another big issue that hurts Latinos. They are paying taxes but due to their immigration status they are not eligible for many of the benefits that exist. There are also difficulties with retirement accounts, health care and improving labor protections.

"A recession is inevitable and when it happens, the first jobs that will be lost are those of Latinos"

Is there still financial discrimination against Latinos despite being a growing economic force in recent years?

It is so. 20% of Latinos do not have access to credit. And they do not have access to credit, not because they do not known the system, but because of how the financial system is designed. A credit score is calculated for each person and a bank decides if they are going to give you the loan or not. It is difficult to get a credit history, especially when you recently arrived in the country. And the scoring the immigrant comes with from his/her country is not valid here, even though it could be good. You have to have credit to get credit and Latinos cannot get in there.

That is a great impediment to the development of Latinos in the country.

Credit is essential to progress here, and Latinos are not getting it. The immigration system should be fixed first. But also, change how the credit is calculated. If I pay the rent, it should be in the scoring, because it is a value that indicates how I pay my debts. The same with the electricity or water payment history. But the credit reporting agency does not take that into account, and if you want them to take it into account they have to pay. And most of Latinos only have money to pay for food.

In short, there are many improvements to the system to help create more accessible credit. Something similar happens with entrepreneurs. Access to capital for Latinos who want to start their business is essential. Credit is the foundation of the economic system of this country.

How do you assess the economic scenario going forward with the possible recession and the impact on the Hispanic community?

From now on, not only inflation will be an important issue, but also the slowdown of the economy. The Fed raised interest rates to reduce inflation, and by doing so it is inevitable that the economy will go into a recession. And when that happens, like in 2008, those who get hurt the most are Latinos and African- Americans. In other words, the poorest people. And when that happens, we are going to find ourselves in a very complex situation for Latinos, because the first jobs to be lost are those of Latinos.

"A recession is inevitable and when it happens, the first jobs that will be lost are those of Latinos"

Something similar to what happened when the pandemic began, when the first jobs to be lost were for Latinos. Will it be the same now but not because of COVID but because of the recession?

Yes, and more than anything in the case of women, as we saw during the pandemic. At that time, in April 2021, only during that month, 400,000 jobs were lost and those were for Latina and black women. And to this day those jobs are not fully recovered.

The Fed raised interest rates to reduce inflation, and by doing so it is inevitable that the economy will go into a recession. And when that happens, like in 2008, those who get hurt the most are Latinos and African- Americans.

Despite everything, there is an important level of resilience that makes Latinos a key factor in the country's economy. How do you explain that?

Many times we see that Latinos are the ones moving the economy forward, but when it comes to thinking about public policies, it is precisely the Latino families that do not receive this support. If you want to have the most economical argument, including Latinos in the design of policies is the most logical thing if you want the country to grow and compete with countries like China and others that have grown much more. The US has not backed down and that was because of the growth of Latinos.

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