Inflation hitting San Antonio's Latino consumers, businesses especially hard

According to a June study published by Liberty Street Economics, some demographics, including Latinos, are suffering worse under the current bout with inflation than other Americans.

click to enlarge Although inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1% this June, U.S. Latinos experienced price hikes closer to 9.7%, a study found. - Shutterstock / Nong2
Shutterstock / Nong2
Although inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1% this June, U.S. Latinos experienced price hikes closer to 9.7%, a study found.

Everyone feels the bite from inflation. Whether buying groceries, filling up at the gas pump or paying utility bills, it's hard to escape what some economists linken to a tax imposed without legislation.

Even so, not every Alamo City resident is feeling the same amount of pain from that bite.

According to a June study published by Liberty Street Economics — a think tank that analyzes Federal Reserve data — some demographics, including Latinos, are suffering worse under the current bout with inflation than other Americans.

Liberty Street analyzed the effects of inflation by examining the spending patterns of white, Asian, Black and Latino Americans. To determine which group was hurt the worst, its experts then analyzed the inflation rate on what each demographic was buying at the time.

"When overall inflation began rising in March 2021, inflation disparities surged, with Black and Hispanic Americans experiencing higher inflation than the national average," the report said.

Although inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1% this June, U.S. Latinos experienced price hikes closer to 9.7%, the study found. What's more, the inflation rate burdening that demographic was 1.2% higher than for white Americans, whose rate was 8.5%.

River City Federal Credit Union President and CEO Jeff Ivey said that strain is apparent as he talks to his customers, 65% of whom are Latino.

"For a lot of folks, it's getting harder and harder to provide the basics," Ivey said. "I'm talking about putting food on the table versus buying school supplies or getting the car fixed or paying utilities. It just becomes more of a challenge."

Long overdue

Although the customers at RCFCU are feeling the brunt of inflation's effects, they also fall on Latino-owned small businesses.

Mark Garcia, a former owner of San Antonio's Bandit BBQ and co-owner of the soon-to-open Big Animal restaurant and bar, says the price increases, especially in the food and service industry, were long overdue.

"Some of the more savvy restaurants in town have done that for a while and have incrementally increased their prices," Garcia said. "But, for your average mom-and-pop taco place to tack on that 50 cents or dollar to that taco, it's really hard for them."

Businesses in the food and service industry long needed to increase their prices to pay staff and buy ingredients, both challenges during the pandemic, according to Garcia. But now that the price of everything is rising, the long-needed inflation in the cost of services has made raising prices a necessity.

"It's just par for the course, at this point, that prices are going up," Garcia said. "Everybody that's raising prices absolutely has to raise prices. I don't think anybody's doing it out of greed. But I think they were really slow to take that position."

Second jobs

Inflation-driven price hikes also are leading some San Antonio residents, such as LaTischa Castro, to find other sources of income to make ends meet.

Castro first opened her store on Poshmark, an online clothing marketplace, after her mother's 2019 retirement as a U.S Air Force civil servant. Castro's mother no longer needed the many business suits she purchased while working at the Pentagon and wanted a second source of income during retirement.

So, Castro — with her mother and sister — launched the online store 3 Simple Wives.

Although started as a side hustle, the extra cash flow has become increasingly helpful for the family, especially since Castro's sister, who has a teenage daughter, retired from her job on active duty for the military last week. And the cost of living in San Antonio continues to rise.

"Having that second stream of income — even during furloughs and now with inflation going up — means that we still have money to do fun things and take care of a teenager," Castro said.

Recession-proof

Even with inflation at a four-decade high, observers warn that things could get even worse for San Antonio's Latino consumers and small businesses. Many experts are predicting a recession — or warn that we've already dipped into one.

Sales for Castro's 3 Simple Wives slipped this summer, although she noted that they picked up a bit as children prepare to return to school.

"These are going to be some challenging times over the next 12 to 18 months because I do think we're on the cusp of a full-blown recession, and that's going to be hard to navigate for a lot of people," RCFCU's Ivey said. "Anytime a small business goes under or really struggles, that's bad for the local economy."

Although Castro and Ivey are concerned about a slowdown, Garcia said he's not sweating it as he looks to open Big Animal.

"Bars are pretty recession-proof," he said. "Bars, drug dealing and prostitution."

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