Related BLS programs | Related articles
May 2002, Vol. 125, No. 5
The role of foreign-born workers in the U. S. economyAbraham T. Mosisa
As the 21st century begins, the ethnic and racial composition of the U.S. workforce continues to diversify at a rapid pace. Much of that change reflects an expansion in the share of foreign-born workers, from about 1 in 17 in 1960 to 1 in 8 workers today.1 Additionally, the geographic areas of origin of those workers have shifted. In 1960, about 3 in 4 of the foreign born had come from Europe; today, that proportion is less than 1 in 6, largely reflecting the influx of immigrants from Latin America and Asia. The large increase in the number of foreign-born workers, which has occurred in recent years, has contributed to the U.S. labor force expansion during that period. Between 1996 and 2000, the foreign born constituted nearly half of the net labor force increase.2
This article first reviews the history of immigration, focusing on the changing national origins of the foreign born; then, it presents a comparison of labor force characteristics of the foreign-born population with those of the native-born population; and finally, discusses the role of the foreign born in regards to the labor force growth that occurred between 1996 and 2000.3 In this article, contrary to the customary BLS practice of counting Hispanics (an ethnic group) as part of the race category to which they belong, Hispanics are not included in the estimates for whites, blacks, and Asians, but, instead, are shown separately.4 This was done because currently Hispanics constitute a large proportion of the foreign born, and they have distinctive characteristics, which will be outlined further throughout this article. Hence, if they were included in the estimates for the major race group, clear-cut comparisons of employment characteristics among the groups would be difficult to make. The data used in this study are primarily from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the monthly survey of about 60,000 households conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.5
This excerpt is from an article published in the May 2002 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full article in PDF (190K)
1 The foreign-born population, although primarily comprised of legally admitted immigrants, includes refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants. "Natives" are persons born in the United States, Puerto Rico, or an outlying area of the United States such as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands, and persons who were born in a foreign country but who had at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen. All others are "foreign born."
2 In response to the increased demand for statistical information about the foreign born, questions on nativity, citizenship, year of entry, and parental nativity were added to the Current Population Survey (CPS) beginning in January 1994. Prior to 1994, the decennial census, two cps Supplements (in April 1983 and November 1989) and, to some extent, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that collects information about legally admitted immigrants and nonimmigrants, were the primary data sources on the foreign born. See A. Dianne Schmidley and J. Gregory Robinson, "How well does the Current Population Survey measure the foreign-born population in the United States?" Technical working paper No. 22, (U.S. Bureau of the Census, April 1998), p. 1.
3 Because data for 1994 and 1995 are not strictly comparable with data for 1996 and subsequent years, for this study, only data collected since 1996 are used. See Schmidley and Robinson, "How well does …?".
4 People of Hispanic origin may be of any race including white, black, Asian and some other race. For most BLS programs, the practice is not to exclude persons of Hispanic origin from the white and black population groups.
5 See Ryan T. Helwig, Randy E. Ilg, and Sandra L. Mason, "Expansion of the Current Population Survey Sample Effective July 2001," Employment and Earnings (Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 2001). Data prior to 1996 are from Public-Use Microdata Samples (PUMS) of the Census Bureau.
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Related Monthly Labor Review articles
Diversity of Hispanics in the U.S. work force, The.—Aug. 1993.
How do immigrants fare in the U.S. labor market?—Dec. 1992.
The growing presence of Hispanics in the U.S. work force.—August 1988.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers