Reinforcement of Cultural Identity and its Effects on Productivity of Latino Workers

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In the last few years the topic of Latinos, immigration, and jobs has been under constant scrutiny by the media and politicians. Regardless of the rhetoric, Latinos constitute a rapid growing segment in United States. In 2016, there were 26.8 million Hispanics or Latinos in the U.S. labor force, nearly triple the 9.0 million in 1988. Hispanics or Latinos composed 16.8 percent of the labor force in 2016, up from 7.4 percent in 1988. By 2017, the number of Latinos either working or looking for work was at 66.1% a higher rate than for non-Latinos which is at 62.2%. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, the Economics Daily, 2017) Though most of us can feel the rising number of Latinos in the United States very few think about the impact this community will have in the productivity of different sectors. In order for us to analyze the productivity of Latinos it is to understand the many members of this ethnic group have experienced prejudice and discrimination. Research shows that acculturation, oppression and racism create social barriers that pose serious threat for Latinos and these experiences shape their construction of a social identity. (Padilla, 2002) More research needs to be conducted in order to really understand the impact of the diverse situations that Latinos face and how it shapes their cultural identity which in turn affects their productivity. Thus, this study aims to take a look at the way Latinos cultural identity is affected in the United States and how it affects their productivity.

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As mentioned before the Latino minority group is growing at a rapid speed. Many Latinos are born in the United States, foreign born Latinos make-up 46% of the population of this minority group (Larsen, 2004). Many of them bring youth, little to no formal education and no knowledge of the English language. (Roosa, Morgan-Lopez, Cree, & Specter, 2002) Their experience in the United States is one where they earn less income, have lower educational outcomes and are more likely to live in poverty compared to those born the United States. (Larsen, 2004) While the reasons leading to migration differs from family to family many choose to leave their countries of origin because of financial or political situations. This experience indicates a life crisis not just to the family system but also within the individual. One of the main stressors for Latinos’ cultural identity is Acculturation. The process of internal change experienced by immigrants exposed to a new cultural that has changes in their behavior, values systems, and norms. (Social Science Research Council, 1954)

The stress associated with this initial transition period may result in depression or anxiety, and individuals who experience significant trauma during migration may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Smart & Smart, 1995). During this period of change Latinos not only face the transition into a minority status and the perceived anti-Latino sentiment in the United States can lead to social stigmatization for all Latinos. Many Latinos are aware to of the negative perceptions of their group held by non-Latinos. (Casas, Ponterotto, & Sweeney, 1987) This realization can result in the negative feelings such as powerlessness, low self-esteem and inferiority. With all this negative stress, Latinos respond in a variety of ways to the majority culture. As Latinos go through the process of acculturation a by-product of this is the internalized oppression that is created. According to Laura M. Padilla, when a victim experiences a hurt that is not healed, distress patterns emerge whereby the victim engages in some type of harmful behavior. Internalized oppression has been described as the process why which these patterns reveal themselves. Many of these patterns are evident when analyzing the productivity in the Latino minority group.

One of the most evident sectors is education. The education attainment rate is slower than other non-Latino groups. Upon entering kindergarten 42% of Latino children are found to be the lowest quartile of performance in reading readiness. By 4th grade 16% Latino students are proficient in reading. When it comes to completing college only 11% of Latinos ages 25-29 obtain a Bachelor’s degree but most alarming is the lack of progress made by Latinos in obtaining higher education in the last 20 years. Many Latino parents have come to believe that they cannot help their children learn because they haven’t experienced much formal education themselves, or because they don’t speak English, and their skills and abilities are often overlooked by schools. (Gendara, 2008)

This type of mindset that these parents have can be attributed by many reasons. We can clearly see how this type of internal oppression and the attempt to strip away the culture of origin can have a significant impact in the way a group develops and shows productivity. Though many factors contribute to the alarming education gap of Latinos in the United States one way to combat this phenomenon is by introducing bilingual education programs. Language and cultural barriers of Hispanic workers can seriously affect jobsite communication, which further hinders productivity, and increase safety risk (Robertson, 2007).

Creating educational programs that reinforce positive Latino cultural values and increased exposure of the language to both Latinos and non-Latinos it may have a positive effect in productivity in the workplace. Allowing for Latinos to develop in a bicultural environment will enhance their productivity. If we reinforce early bicultural programs we would allow for Latinos to enhance their unique skills as multicultural individuals making them more competitive in the global work force. Making it a more cost efficient approach for organizations when it comes training and development. (Fitzsimmons, 2013) Research shows immigration has a positive, large and significant effect on total factor productivity but it also had a negative impact on specialized skills. (Peri, 2009)

Studies show that students in dual language programs, compared with similar students who are in English-only programs, find that in the two-way immersion students either perform as well as those students in English-only or they outperform the English-only students, across all academic areas. (Genesee et al., 2006) Having, Latinos in two-way or dual immersion programs can lead to more positive attitudes toward non-English languages and cultures and exhibit better intercultural relations. (Genesee and Gendara, 1999) The lack of these programs has taken a toll in the academic productivity of Latinos. The reinforcement of the language is an essential aspect for Latinos to be connected with culture of origin. Understanding the benefits of learning more than language will help increase the awareness of this issue and see the potential benefits it has for American productivity in various sectors.

Evidence that Latinos’ experience in the United States helps contribute to the lack of development as a group. The Latino population is affected by the anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States. Many forget that Latinos are not all immigrants and are also native born Americans. This type of misunderstanding allows for discrimination and racism to prevent this group from being more productive. It is evident that lack of goal specification, communication and incentives for goal attainment and low cultural collectivism contribute to the group’s performance. (Erez, Somech, 1996) Giving that there is still very little research as to the effects of cultural identity and its effects on productivity, the Latino population in the United States gives us a glimpse to what happens when deculturalization happens systematically. The staggering lag of the Latino population calls for us to revisit topics of cultural reinforcement in order for productivity to increase in various sectors. With the rising numbers of population Latinos are a sleeping asset waiting to be developed.

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Reinforcement of Cultural Identity and its effects on Productivity of Latino Workers. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from

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