Report to shed light on Hispanics' impact in S.C.

The S.C. Minority Affairs Commission plans to unveil in a month what it calls the most comprehensive report on Hispanics' impact on South Carolina's schools, hospitals and labor market.

The report, which will be released during a Latino issues conference, sheds new light, said Lee McElveen, the commission's Latino coordinator. The study is an important step in a state where immigration is being debated in the legislature and in city council chambers, she said.

McElveen expects teachers, social workers, university professors and others who work with the Hispanic population to attend. But she hopes people who have concerns about the state's booming Hispanic population will come, too.

"The other target is people who may have misconceptions," McElveen said. "If they have questions and concerns, this conference is the time to ask.

The studies will help provide a more clear picture of the Hispanics in South Carolina, McElveen said.

For example, no one knows how many Hispanics live and work in the state. The Census estimates about 140,000 but University of South Carolina researchers believe the number is higher than 400,000.

The minority affairs commission's study was conducted by Elaine Lacy, a researcher with the USC Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies and Doug Woodward, a research economist with the USC Moore School of Business.

In the latest study, Woodward and Lacy interviewed 503 Hispanics of various ethnic backgrounds, said Ben Washington, deputy director of the minority affairs commission. They asked about the subjects' home countries and length of time in the United States and South Carolina.

The interviewers also asked questions about the Hispanic's economic status and use of the education and health systems, he said.

Washington said he believes the newest report will offer surprises.

"It can take the punch out of this notion that they're taking other peoples' jobs," Washington said.