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Race and Ethnicity

Are Oregon Latinos fairly represented in leadership roles?


We know that Latinos have a long history in our state, and Oregon is becoming increasingly diverse as a result of marked growth among this population. So now we need to pay attention to how Latinos are represented in various aspects of community life and democracy – so we can make sure all Oregon residents are fairly included.

Learning Nugget:

Available data suggest that Latinos are significantly under-represented in Oregon leadership roles. Demographic causes of this under-representation include measurement limitations, the age structure of the Latino community, and the citizenship status of many residents. This under-representation means that decisions affecting this population are being made by people who have limited personal experience of Latino issues – a fact that conflicts with most of our values for a representative democracy.

Evidence to support the nugget:

  1. Latinos are under-represented among voters: According to sample data from the 2012 Current Population Survey, November Supplement, administered by the US Census Bureau, only about 3% of all 2012 Oregon voters were Latino. Compared to the 11.7% representation of Latinos in Oregon, Latino voters were under-represented among Oregon voters by almost nine percentage points.
  2. Latinos are under-represented among business owners: According to data from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners, administered by the US Census Bureau, 3% of all Oregon businesses were owned by Latinos. Latinos were thus also under-represented among Oregon business owners by about nine percentage points.
  3. Latinos are under-represented in elected office: According to data I compiled from, the Oregon Legislature, Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon School Board Association, and the League of Oregon Cities, and compared to data collected by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund in Washington, DC, Latinos made up less than 1% (about .3%) of all elected office holders in Oregon in 2008 (serving at federal, state, county, city, judicial/law, and education board levels). Latinos were under-represented among Oregon elected officials by 11 percentage points.

Demographic reasons for under-representation:

  • Age & citizen composition of Oregon Latinos:

Only a third of Oregon Latinos are citizens and over the age of 18 (see chart below). Thus, only a third of Oregon Latinos are eligible to vote, run for office, or likely to own businesses. Even if we account for the age structure, Latinos are still under-represented in leadership roles I was able to measure; Latino adults represent 9% of Oregon’s adult population.

  • Measurement limitations:

There are many forms of leadership for which we don’t have public, reliable, and regularly available data about race and ethnicity – like legislative staffers, non-profit executive directors, government agency heads, neighborhood association leaders, and other informal local leadership positions. It is much easier to enter these types of leadership positions than elected office, so Latinos are more likely to be in these types of roles than formal elected offices. Being unable to measure the number of Latinos in these leadership positions means I am probably under-counting Latinos in leadership.

The take-aways:

  • Even if we account for the age composition of Oregon Latinos, this group is still under-represented in leadership roles (proportional representation percentage would be 9%).
  • In Extension, we often build leadership skills among our clientele and create opportunities for residents to connect with each other, which can cultivate informal and formal leadership. As a result, we have a unique opportunity to help fix this problem of under-representation by:
    • ​Cultivating leadership among the many Latino youth in Oregon
    • Creating, cultivating, and supporting informal leadership opportunities for non-citizen Latinos
  • What are some of the social reasons Latinos may be under-represented in leadership roles in Oregon?

Authored by Lena Etuk, 2014