The new 50-page report, "Religion Matters," was released by sociologists David Sikkink and Edwin Hernandez of Notre Dame. It emphasizes that Hispanics now are the largest ethnic minority and may become 25 percent of the U.S. population in future decades.According to other research, 40 percent of school-age Hispanics born abroad are not enrolled in school. The drop-out rate for Latinos ages 16 to 24 is 21.6 percent, about twice that of whites.Immigrants — and especially Dominicans, Cubans and Mexicans — produce more single-parent families the longer they live in the United States."Religion may mitigate this trend," the new report said.
The report questioned predictions that a "permanent Latino underclass" is inevitable, and rejected the theory that poor Hispanics who take refuge in Catholic enclaves or Protestant sects will reject secular education. "Religion seems less likely to create a community of closed minds than to create the conditions in which Latino youth excel in school," the report said. The parents involved in evangelical Protestant sects, in fact, tend to "communicate higher educational aspirations" than do Catholic parents. And students from active religious families tend to do better in math and science than other Hispanics.