Hispanic and Latino families still face significant barriers to equality with whites.
Hispanic and Latino families still face significant barriers to equality with whites.

Editor’s Note: The next Latino in America documentary anchored by Soledad O’Brien focuses on Latino voters. Click the Latino in America tag below or follow @cnnlia for more updates on other Latino in America stories. This is the third part of a CNN In America documentary series on American voters. Airing October 2012.

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – A new report that looks at education, health, civic engagement, economics and social justice indicates that Hispanics and Latinos in America are slightly ahead on the road to equality with whites, relative to their African-American counterparts.

The National Urban League’s 2012 Equality Index of Hispanic America was included as part of the 2012 State of Black America Report released Wednesday. The overall 2012 Equality Index score for Hispanics and Latinos was 76.1%, 0.6% lower than the 2011 score. The 2012 index score for African-Americans was 71.5%.

A score of 100% would indicate a measurement in which Hispanic and Latino people were scoring equally with white people, while a score below 100% indicates categories in which Hispanics and Latinos are scoring less. Scores higher than 100% indicate measurements in which Hispanics and Latinos are scoring above whites.

As with the index for African-American equality, a score above 100% does not necessarily mean that a group is doing “better” than whites in a category. For example, the index score for the percentage of Hispanic/Latino newborns with low birth weight is 104%, indicating that a higher proportion of Hispanic/Latino babies are born with low birth weight than white babies.

According to the report, the greatest inequalities between whites and Hispanics/Latinos came in the categories of economics, where Hispanics/Latinos had a score of 60.8%, and in social justice, where the score was 60.9%.

The score for civic engagement was 67.9% and for education, 75.8%. The score in the category of health, 104.4%, was the only one in which Latinos and Hispanics achieved parity with whites. But most of the markers associated with the health index score were negative. For example, compared with the index scores of whites, Hispanics and Latinos had higher rates of suicide, fatal lung cancer and mothers who smoke during pregnancy, and more people without access to health insurance.

The biggest changes in inequality when compared to the 2011 measurements were in civic engagement (which decreased from 71.7% to 67.4%) and social justice (which decreased from 63.5% to 60.9%). The report said that a disproportionate decline in voter turnout and registration was a major contributor to the lower civic engagement score.

But some groups are expecting Hispanic/Latino participation in the 2012 to be even greater than the record levels of 2008. According to projections by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), 8.7% of the voters in the 2012 election will be Hispanic/Latino, a 25.6% increase from the last presidential race. A coalition of Hispanic groups, Latinos for Democracy, launched a campaign in February to register 200,000 new voters by the end of 2012.

The decline in the social justice score was linked to an increase in incidents in which Hispanics and Latinos were stopped by authorities while driving. For 2011, the index for that measurement was 100%–indicating that Hispanic/Latino drivers were stopped about the same proportion of times as whites. But the 2012 index score fell to 92%, indicating that Hispanic/Latino drivers were experiencing more such stops.

When compared to African-Americans, the index revealed two areas in which the category index scores showed a huge gap: civic engagement and health. African-Americans’ score for the former was 98.6%, nearly 31 percentage points higher than the Hispanic/Latino score. In health, African-Americans were gaining less ground than Hispanic/Latinos – scoring at 76.5 percent, about 28 percentage points lower than the Hispanic/Latino score.