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Lehman Professor Completes First Comprehensive Study Since 1987 of Hispanics in U.S.

October 7, 2010

Dr. Laird W. Bergad

Hispanics in the United States

Hispanics in the United States have made significant progress over the last twenty-five years in their range of careers and levels of education and income, according to Dr. Laird W. Bergad, Lehman's Distinguished Professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies. He has just completed the first extensive study of this population since 1987.

"Latinos are not much different from other immigrant groups that came to the U.S. in the past in many ways," says Dr. Bergad. "Although they lag behind other race/ethnic groups in many social indicators, what we see is an impressive record of improvement." He cites an increasing number of college graduates as one example—from eight percent of all adults in 1980 to fourteen percent in 2008—as well as rising household income. Still, Latinos continue to have very high rates of poverty. A quarter of all Hispanics continue to live below the poverty line, about the same as in 1980.

Dr. Bergad and his co-author, Professor Emeritus Herbert S. Klein of Columbia University, analyzed U.S. Census and other statistical data from a demographic, social, and economic perspective, emphasizing changes that have taken place within the Latino population over time. Their new book, Hispanics in the United States: A Demographic, Social, and Economic History, 1980 - 2005 (Cambridge University Press, 2010), examines the basic patterns that led to the formation of this complex minority group, which is projected to comprise one-third of the total U.S. population by 2050.

"While other similar studies have presented static portraits of particular measures, we looked at how indicators like education, marriage patterns, wealth, and poverty have changed since 1980," explains Dr. Bergad. The book provides an extensive database for researchers.

A member of the Lehman faculty since 1980, Dr. Bergad is the founding director of the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. He was named a Distinguished Professor in 2009, making him the seventh current member of the Lehman faculty to hold this rank.

Dr. Bergad's other books include Coffee and the Growth of Agrarian Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico (Princeton University Press, 1983); Cuban Rural Society in the Nineteenth Century: The Social and Economic History of Monoculture in Matanzas (Princeton University Press, 1990), which examines the evolution of the sugar plantation economy in nineteenth-century Cuba; The Cuban Slave Market, 1790-1880 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), which he coauthored; Demographic and Economic History of Slavery in Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1720-1888 (Cambridge University Press, 1999); and The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Dr. Bergad has received numerous awards, including Guggenheim, Fulbright, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.