Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Hispanic Educational Goals and Attainment

Hispanic Educational Goals and Attainment
Tina Patterson

Hispanics comprise the largest minority group in the United States. However, they are also the racial/ethnic group with the lowest educational attainment rate in the U.S. The goal of this research is to find out if the low educational attainment rate is related to or attributed to the English language proficiency of native Spanish speaking Americans. Through the research, I wanted to answer three related sub-questions:

1.) How does English language proficiency affect the high school completion percentage/dropout rate of native Spanish speakers?
2.) How does English language proficiency affect the college enrollment/completion rate of native Spanish speakers?
3.) What effect, if any, does the English First/English Only movement have on the educational goals of native Spanish speaking Americans?

To find the answers to these questions, I compared the educational goals versus educational attainment of native English speaking Americans to native Spanish speaking Americans. I conducted interviews with ten participants from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Five of the participants were native speakers of English, and the other five were native speakers of Spanish. All participants resided in the metro Detroit area, and all are United States citizens by birth.
The results showed that although native Spanish speaking Americans showed lower signs of educational attainment, it was not solely due to their English language proficiency. Nearly all of the Spanish speaking participants had educational goals, but few actually achieved them for a variety of reasons, including money, family, lack of support, and work. Native English speaking Americans had a much higher level of education, and some similar educational attainment influences like family and money. However, native English speakers had more flexibility in deciding if they would achieve their goals, including proper timing, preparation, desired location, and changing career interests.

The effect of English language proficiency on the high school completion/dropout rate could not be determined because all participants had a least a high school diploma. As far as the college enrollment/completion rate, English language proficiency does have an effect on college enrollment/completion rates because only one of the native Spanish speakers had completed a college degree. Finally, for the English first/English only question, the movement only played a small role in educational goals and attainment of native Spanish speakers. Four out of five native Spanish speakers did, however, respond that they felt at a disadvantage by being non-native English speakers in the United States school systems.

In conclusion, I found that educational goals are developed by both native English speakers and native Spanish speakers in the United States, but different factors influence whether or not the education will actually be attained. For native English speakers, these factors include proper timing, preparation, desired location, and changing career interests. For native Spanish speakers, these factors include money, family, support, work, and their English language proficiency. Although English language proficiency is one factor, it is not the only factor, and perhaps more importantly, not the most significant factor.

April 17, 2009 - Posted by | abstract


  1. You say that there is an association between English language proficiency and college completion for native Spanish-speakers, but is it a causal factor or are some of the other elements you listed at play?

    Did the participants give any sort of ranking to the factors influencing their educational attainment?

    Comment by Elanya | April 20, 2009 | Reply

  2. No, it is not a causal factor. In fact, I mentioned this in the last sentence of the abstract. “Although English language proficiency is one factor, it is not the only factor, and perhaps more importantly, not the most significant factor.” This applied to all levels of education, and although not mentioned, more specifically the college level, because all the participants had attained at least a high school diploma. Many other elements affected college completion and enrollment more than language proficiency, which I mentioned, including money, family, support, etc. There was no ranking mentioned for the factors, but it would be safe to assume that money/finances/income would be ranked at the top.

    Comment by Tina Patterson | April 20, 2009 | Reply

  3. Tina,

    Would it be possible for us to speak over the phone? I am currently writing a book for educators about the Hispanic culture and would like to bend your ear a bit. Please let me know if this is possible.

    Thank you,


    Comment by Ruben Perez | June 19, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: