NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Role Of Immigrants In The U.S. Labor Market: An Update

August 4, 2010

People born in other countries represent a substantial and growing segment of the U.S. labor force -- that is, people with a job or looking for one, says the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

  • In 2009, 24 million members of the labor force -- more than one in seven -- were foreign born, up from 21 million in 2004.
  • However, the growth of the foreign-born labor force was much slower between 2004 and 2009 than between 1994 and 2004.
  • In that earlier period, the size of the foreign-born labor force grew at an average annual rate of more than 5 percent, whereas from 2004 to 2009, the rate was about 2 percent.
  • As a share of the total, the foreign-born labor force grew from 10.0 percent in 1994 to 14.5 percent in 2004 and to 15.5 percent in 2009. 

Among members of the foreign-born labor force in the United States in 2009, about half came to this country before 1994.  In 2009, 40 percent of the foreign-born labor force was from Mexico and Central America, and more than 25 percent was from Asia. 

In 2009, over half of the foreign-born workers from Mexico and Central America did not have a high school diploma or GED credential, as compared with just 6 percent of native-born workers.  In contrast, nearly half of the foreign-born workers from places other than Mexico and Central America had at least a bachelor's degree, as compared with 35 percent of native-born workers. 

To a considerable extent, educational attainment determines the role of foreign-born workers in the labor market, says the CBO: 

  • In 2009, 70 percent of workers born in Mexico and Central America were employed in occupations that have minimal educational requirements, such as construction laborer and dishwasher; only 23 percent of native-born workers held such jobs.
  • On average, the weekly earnings of men from Mexico and Central America who worked full time were just over half those of native-born men; women from Mexico and Central America earned about three-fifths of the average weekly earnings of native-born women. 

Source: Report, "The Role of Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market: An Update," Congressional Budget Office, July 2010. 

For text:

http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=11691 

 

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