April 24, 2019

A Tale of Two Latino Communities: More Diplomas on the Other Side of the Hudson

By Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps

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This week, Urban Matters continues our ongoing occasional series drawn from “A Portrait of New York City 2018: Well-Being in the Five Boroughs and the Greater Metro Area,” a recent report by Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council.

Among the most persistent human development challenges for Latinos is educational attainment; Latinos have the lowest Education Index not only in New York City, but in the New York metro area and in the country as a whole. (The Index is calculated using a combination of school enrollment rates and adult high school, bachelor’s, and graduate degree attainment rates.) But important differences exist among neighborhoods in the metropolitan area.

West New York, Secaucus, and Guttenberg in Hudson County, NJ, and Jackson Heights and North Corona in Queens are two predominantly Latino clusters of neighborhoods with many commonalities. Latinos make up an equally large share of the population in both (68 percent and 67 percent, respectively. The life expectancy in both neighborhood clusters is high. The rates of poverty, homeownership, and married households are also similar, and the rates of single-mother households in both places are below the national average. But when it comes to educational attainment, the Hudson County neighborhood cluster is an outlier, outperforming not just Jackson Heights and North Corona but most other majority-Latino neighborhood clusters in the metro area.


The Jackson Heights and North Corona cluster falls below the US average on education and standard of living. The Hudson County neighborhood cluster, on the other hand, is roughly on par with the United States in education and income—with lower rates of adults with high school degrees, but higher rates of college education and higher median personal earnings.

In the Hudson County towns, 80.6 percent of adults have at least a high school diploma, while only 67.5 percent of Jackson Heights and North Corona adults do, and over a third of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to less than one in five Jackson Heights adults and three in 10 American adults. Likely related, there is also a nearly $8,000 gap in median personal earnings—workers in the Hudson County towns earn $32,200, slightly more than the median American worker, while those in Jackson Heights and North Corona earn $24,300.

Looking at only the Latino populations in these two neighborhood clusters, the share of adults with less than a high school diploma is 10 percentage points higher in the Queens neighborhoods than in the Jersey neighborhoods (37 percent vs. 27 percent). A little over 40 percent of Latino adults in West New York, Secaucus, and Guttenberg have at least some college education, while only a little over a quarter of those in Jackson Heights and North Corona do. In addition to (and likely as a result of) better educational outcomes, Latinos in the New Jersey neighborhoods also earn about $2,500 more on average.

Latino men and women both have higher levels of education in the Hudson County neighborhoods compared to their Queens counterparts. But earnings are a different story.

The Hudson County neighborhoods’ earnings advantage is driven almost entirely by higher male earnings. While Latino men earn almost $5,000 more in West New York, Secaucus, and Guttenberg than in Jackson Heights and North Corona, there is very little difference in female earnings; in both neighborhood clusters, women earn about the same as the average Latina in the United States. Latina women in the Hudson County neighborhoods are not only more likely to have higher levels of education, but are also more likely to work in management and business occupations and less likely to work in service occupations. This, however, is not reflected in their earnings. In other words, more education translates into higher pay for men, but not for women. Education has intrinsic benefits aside from boosting earning power, so the higher educational attainment level of Latina women in the Hudson County neighborhoods is still good news. But removing the barriers women, especially women of color, face in the workforce will make investments in education more fruitful.

A look at the local schools can give us insight into how adult educational attainment will look in the years to come. A recent Measure of America study of on-time high school graduation rates in New York City by neighborhood of residence found that three-quarters (75.2 percent) of students residing in Jackson Heights and North Corona graduated high school in four years—similar to the citywide rate of 73 percent. A glance at the on-time high school graduation rates of the public high schools in West New York, Secaucus, and Guttenberg reveal far better student outcomes; schoolwide rates are between 82.7 percent and an impressive 94 percent. Public high school students classified as Hispanic have graduation rates comparable to those of their white classmates, and Latino graduation rates in West New York, Secaucus, and Guttenberg are on par with those of Asian and White students in New York City.

Photo By: Moving Forward Network


Kristen Lewis is director and Sarah Burd-Sharps was formerly co-director of Measure of America. Measure of America, a non-partisan project of the non-profit Social Science Research Council, provides easy-to-use yet methodologically sound tools for understanding well-being and opportunity in America. Through reports, online tools, and evidence-based research, we work with partners to breathe new life into numbers, using data to identify areas of need, pinpoint levers of change, and track progress over time.

A Portrait of New York City 2018: Well-Being in the Five Boroughs and the Greater Metro Area examines well-being and access to opportunity for different geographic and demographic groups in New York City and the greater New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan area using the human development framework and index. This report also examines a range of issues that contribute to and/or are compounded by the well-being challenges faced by many New York City communities, such as child poverty, health inequities, racism, and residential segregation.