The U.S. Hispanic population, which is growing five times faster than the rest of the country, is also much more likely to live in poverty, to be employed in low-wage occupations and to lag behind educationally, the Census Bureau reported in a study released today.

The figures show that Hispanic households are more likely than non-Hispanic households to be made up of families, but those families are less likely to own their homes or have a telephone.

"It points to a couple of very troubling things," said Lisa Navarrete, spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza. While poverty generally is associated with unstable families and young, single mothers, she said, many of the poor in the Hispanic community are found in two-parent, working families.

"For the most part, Hispanic poverty is different. It's a case of the working poor," Navarrete said.

The most striking trend continues to be the rate of growth: the Hispanic population -- now more than 20 million -- grew 39 percent since 1980, compared to 8 percent for the non-Hispanic population. About half of the growth among Hispanics was due to immigration.

In light of that growth, indications of continued high poverty and educational failure take on added importance. Using 1988 income, nearly 24 percent of Hispanic families fell below the poverty line, compared to 9.4 percent among non-Hispanic families.

At the same time, black families also are disproportionately poor, with more than 28 percent in poverty, according to census figures.

A report issued recently by the National Council of La Raza underscored the economic problems among Hispanics, stating that, by any standard, Hispanics lost ground economically during the 1980s and that the income disparity with white family income was growing.

The report, "The Decade of the Hispanic: an Economic Retrospective," said: "Some Americans believe that the Hispanic poor do not work and do not live in intact families," the report stated. "The worsening situation of working, married-couple Hispanics dramatically belies this myth."

The study reported that the poverty rate among Hispanic married-couple families in 1979 was 13.1 percent, about the same as that for comparable black families, while the figure among white married-couple families was 4.7 percent. In 1988, however, the figure for whites had risen slightly to 4.9 percent, while the rate among blacks had fallen to 11.3 percent. Among Hispanics, the poverty figure climbed to 16.1 percent.

The Census Bureau report cited these statistics:

60 percent of young Hispanic adults said they had completed four or more years of high school, compared to 89 percent of non-Hispanics.

54 percent of Hispanic men were employed in lower-paying service occupations, compared to 33 percent among non-Hispanics.

82 percent of Hispanic households were made up of families, compared to 70 percent of non-Hispanic households.