Jacksonville ranks fourth in the country in between Hispanics and non Hispanics whites residential integration and economic and educational opportunities.
It’s according to a study by The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C. Looking at the top 100 metro areas, it put Jacksonville behind only Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Pittsburgh and the Portland, Maine, area.
Medardo Monzon, new president of the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, stressed that while he hadn’t seen the report, “It feels right. I have noticed a positive change since coming to Jacksonville in 2003.” The Colombian Monzon, who runs an international consulting firm, said that “while there’s some work to be done, it’s a favorable environment.”
Maria Machin, who moved to the U.S. from Cuba at age 3, is more pessimistic. She gives Jacksonville credit for its diverse neighborhoods, where Hispanics live alongside many others. But still, she thinks that many Hispanics- a diverse group from many different cultures- are stereotyped, and their voices are not yet as influential in the community as their numbers.
“We don’t all live in trailer parks,” said Machin, who’s helped form a chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil-rights group. “We strive for the middle class, we’re hard workers. But they think we’re uneducated or we don’t know our rights or we pick tomatoes in the field.”
For its report, the Urban Institute looked at five factors, giving grades from A to F as it looked at differences between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites: How segregated are neighborhoods? What’s the income gap between the groups? What’s the difference in school test scores? What is the employment rate? And what are home ownership rates?
The group also looked at disparities between blacks and whites, giving Jacksonville a B and ranking it 32nd overall. Margery Austin Turner, the group’s vice president of research, said metro areas with a relatively small Hispanic population -Jacksonville’s is now 7.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau- tended to have smaller gaps in opportunity between Hispanics and whites.
However, the metro area got C for residential segregation, neighborhood income gap and school test scores between blacks and whites, a B for employment gap and an A for a low home ownership gap.))