The Washington DC-metro region has become an important immigration gateway and a laboratory of urban and suburban diversity. Nearly a million Latinos live in this metropolitan area, over half of whom are foreign-born. Latinos are the region's largest and most rapidly growing minority group, and the area's Latino population exhibits distinct characteristics relative to the rest of the country. Together with community and university partners, CLALS is undertaking an array of research projects to better understand the distinctiveness, challenges, and potential contributions of the DC-metro region's Latino population. A majority of DC area Latinos comes from Central and South America, rather than Mexico, Cuba, or Puerto Rico. DC boasts the second largest Salvadoran population in the country, and is the only metropolitan region with Salvadorans as its largest Latino group. The region also has the largest Bolivian population in the U.S. Yet little is known about the circumstances of Latino lives in this region as compared with longer-established and frequently studied Latino populations in such states as New York, California, Texas, or Florida.
Center projects address such topics of concern to Latinos as psychosocial health, the effects of immigration status, gang activity, and community cohesion, among other topics. Latinos in the DC area are the demographic group most likely to start a business. Thus, CLALS is exploring keys to the success or failure of these business ventures. While the DC region boasts the highest percentage of Latino college graduates in the country, multiple center projects are focused on barriers to educational attainment for Latinos. CLALS is also working to provide legal advocates and social service providers with the knowledge they need to better serve Central American immigrants.