Cubans are the victims of poverty, not because of who they are, but because of what they have been ruled by for decades – and not just the Castro family. Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the island nation, protesting against President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his merry band of communists. Being forced to live in the pit of destitution has led the people to rise from these ashes to fight for their rights and, at the very least, dignity. But the conditions that more than 11 million residents have been forced to endure for years will not cease to exist until socialist orthodoxy vanishes from the country 103 miles south of Florida. Until then, Cubans will continue to attempt to flee to the U.S. and prove to themselves that they can succeed if they are extended a modicum of America’s principles: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The success of Cuban Americans is an indictment of socialism and evidence that the American Dream is alive and well.
Crunching the Numbers
In the 1990s, the federal government implemented a new policy for Cubans who reached U.S. soil. A bipartisan effort established the “wet feet, dry feet policy,” granting Cubans the right to pursue residency one year after emigrating from Cuba and arriving in the Land of the Free. Former President Barack Obama dismantled the policy, and the two succeeding administrations refused to reinstate the measure, effectively turning away those attempting to escape the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Havana.
It’s unclear what’s next for those Cubans yearning for a better life. For now, the roughly 2.3 million who live in the U.S. – more than two-thirds of whom are concentrated in the Sunshine State – are thanking the heavens to be living in America. Based on the data and broad array of metrics, many Cuban Americans are not taking this opportunity for granted.
The median household income for U.S.-born Cuban Americans is $57,000, compared to the $12,000 average income for households in Cuba (average is listed because Cuba does not provide median income data). Even if only foreign-born Cubans are taken into account, the annual median income ranges between $28,000 and $35,000, still much higher than if they were back home.
According to The Borgen Project, approximately 26% of Cuba’s population lives in poverty (some experts believe this figure is higher, but it is difficult to gauge because the government censors this type of data). In the United States, fewer than one-fifth of U.S.- and foreign-born Cubans are considered to be in poverty status.
More than half of U.S.- and foreign-born Cubans own a home: 55% and 50%, respectively. Surprisingly, as part of the Raul Castro regime’s economic reforms to permit private property ownership, the homeownership rate is 90% in Cuba. But this is easy enough to achieve when the average home costs $1,000 and is generally in terrible condition. Plus, the government still dictates what can and cannot be done on your land.
According to the Pew Research Center, 38% of U.S.-born Cuban Americans over 25 possess a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 23% of foreign-born Cubans have post-secondary education. Despite its free cradle-to-grave education system, the average education level in Cuba is 11th grade. School is compulsory until the ninth grade.
Overall, Cuban Americans maintain higher household incomes than all U.S. Hispanics and plenty of Latino groups: Brazilian Americans ($56,151), Argentine Americans ($55,000), Peruvian Americans ($52,000), Ecuadorian Americans ($48,600), and Colombian Americans ($48,000).
A Rejection of Socialism
Leftists have championed Cuba as being a socialist paradise, armed with free health care and education. Despite this, a quarter of a million Cubans fled the country, seeking better lives in the United States. It turns out that these families are not as infatuated with socialism as American progressives, many of whom have never gone hungry or fallen under the oppressive boot of a communist regime. Like a lot of other immigrants who have escaped the tortures of socialist dogma, Cuban Americans have flourished when given the tools of a market-oriented economy. Would they have been as prosperous had they stayed behind? Considering that the situation in Cuba is now so dire that the government has rationed food, it is more than likely they would have fallen into the abyss of despair instead of gorging on the delicious fruit of the west.
Read more from Andrew Moran.