Study: Nevada’s Latino population growth exceeds other western states while supports lag

Latinos in Nevada often fare worse than Latinos in other Intermountain West Region states, according to a study being released today.

Latinos in the region often lag behind whites and African-Americans in education, economic well-being and business development, the study found. The Intermountain West also includes Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

“It’s pretty consistent with what we see here on a daily basis,” Seth Rau, policy director for Nevada Succeeds, said Friday. The nonprofit focuses on involving businesses with schools and workforce development. “Our state has done less to address this than any other state. It’s going to take years to catch up.”

The study, which examines the state of Latinos in the region, is the first study conducted by the Kenny C. Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, a nonprofit, bipartisan think tank based in Las Vegas.

The organization has an event planned today to discuss the results of its study.

Nevada’s population has grown rapidly over the past few decades, with Latinos representing the fastest-growing segment of the population.

The growth surpasses that of Latinos in other region states, according to the study.

“While overall population growth is expected to slow in coming years, Latinos are projected to grow at a faster rate than other racial and ethnic groups,” the study said.

Nevada also has a high concentration of Latinos who are not U.S. citizens, the study found.

The study found that throughout the region, the Latino population is younger than the non-Latino population, which has led to a rising number of Latino students in public schools. In Nevada, this population of students became the largest ethnic group in 2011-12, according to the study.

Rau said the state has finally started investing more to help students who are learning English.

Last year, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill providing $50 million to Nevada schools over the next two years to improve the academic performance of English language learners. The funds will benefit students at 14 of the 217 elementary schools in the Clark County School District.

But more is needed, Rau said, such as greater access to prekindergarten for Latino children.

The study also found that Nevada has historically invested less money in education, health and welfare than other states in the region. Nevada also has spent more funds on public safety and corrections than the other states.

“The lack of a quality infrastructure of opportunity in Nevada has led to fiscal pressures for state and local government in the areas of health, welfare and public safety, ” the study reads.

It’s disappointing that Nevada doesn’t fund its schools at a higher level, said Laura Martin with Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a nonprofit political advocacy group.

The state gives the school district $5,457 per student.

“To get equity in education, we need to properly fund it,” she said Friday.

The weaknesses identified by the study in Nevada included the lack of a higher education institution that has received the federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The College of Southern Nevada expects to be eligible to apply for the designation in the next round of applications,which could be in early 2015, said K.C. Brekken, CSN spokeswoman.

Incentives are needed for large businesses to open in Latino communities, Rau said. The key is investing in this population and making sure they are well-educated so they have access to higher paying jobs, he said.

Latinos will become the majority population in Nevada 10 to 15 years from now, Rau predicted.

“Not investing in the majority of your population simply doesn’t makes sense here in Clark County,” he said.

Review-Journal writer Laura Myers contributed to this report. Contact Yesenia Amaro at or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.