June 23, 2008

Researchers find Latinos willing to pay for public services

Posted: June 23, 2008

As immigration from Latin countries continues to swell, so has speculation about the implications of increasing Latino populations in communities where they settle. Such speculation ranges from potential changes in local community life and culture to public policy.

Researchers at Arizona State University believe that, at least for the city of Phoenix which experienced a phenomenal triple-digit growth rate of 226 percent in its Latino population between 1980 and 2007, they have helped answer a pivotal question regarding impact on local public services.

According to the researchers, they found that Latinos in Phoenix are generally willing to pay for quality public services. Their findings, based upon analysis conducted on data collected by Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center as part of the City of Phoenix’s 2002/2004 Community Attitude Surveys, appear in the June issue of Social Science Quarterly.

“The research taps into the broader and compelling question of what difference an increasing Latino population makes, focusing specifically on public service delivery in local government,” said Nicholas Alozie, principal author of the article and professor and head of the social and behavioral sciences unit in the School of Applied Arts and Sciences at the Polytechnic campus.

Alozie’s body of research centers on women and minority issues in public policy. He has published a number of articles on Latinos, but he said there is something unique about this one.

The new research challenges beliefs that the Latino population is merely interested in handouts from government. And it helps address what effect increasing Latino populations can have on their local communities.

Alozie said that many local governments continue to shy away from considering Latino and other lower socioeconomic parts of town for serious public services, especially privatized services, for fear that these populations cannot afford, or will not be willing to pay, for such services. Alozie added that the USAID, in its global crusade to improve social justice, has attributed this grounding assumption not only to many of the differentials in service quality often observed across parts of the same local communities worldwide, but even to the non-availability of services in poorer parts of town altogether.

“This research suggests that assumption is misplaced,” he said. “Latinos want superior local public services, and they are willing to pay for them.

“The Latino population is generally poorer than the white, black, and Asian populations,” said Alozie. “This research proposes that Latinos are willing to pay for local services, ranging from crime fighting, ambulance, library and youth programs to countering gang activities, their income notwithstanding. Moreover, our findings suggest that Latinos are more prepared than whites to pay for these services.”

While the research indicates a willingness to pay for services, the researchers suggest that it also is important to consider the broader role Latinos will have in creating and shaping public policy in the future.

“The continuing growth and persistent residential segregation of the Latino population will call for changes in the way local services are delivered to Latino parts of town, as Latinos will demand more and superior services in the communities in which they live,” he said.

For a copy of the article, visit http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00539.x.