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August 1993, Vol. 116, No. 8
The diversity of Hispanics in the U.S. work force
Persons of Hispanic origin make up one of the fastest growing worker groups in the United States. Their number - 10.1 million in 1992 - has increased 65 percent since 1980, a rate of growth 4 times that for the non-Hispanic work force. A heterogeneous population, Hispanics represent many nationalities and ethnicities, including Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, persons from 15 Central and South American countries, Spain, and the Dominican Republic. (See box, p. 4.) The histories and labor force characteristics of these Hispanic-origin groups are markedly different.1
Labor force growth
Trends in labor force growth differ widely among the major Hispanic ethnic groups. (See chart 1.) Over the past 6 years, the number of Central and South American workers in the United States grew 61 percent-far outstripping the other Hispanic groups. The number of Mexican workers also grew rapidly-28 percent. These increases were almost entirely the result of rapid population growth, which was attributable, in turn, to large waves of immigration. By contrast, the number of Cuban workers in the United States actually has been decreasing, as population growth slowed to a trickle (mainly because of the Cuban Government's restrictions on immigration) and as large numbers of the earlier arrivals reached retirement age.
Overall, Hispanics accounted for approximately 1 of every 3 legal immigrants to the United States during the 1980's. In addition, there were many others who entered illegally. The number of undocumented Hispanics who entered between 1980 and 1986 has been estimated at approximately 1.3 million.2
Mexican Americans are, by far, the largest single Hispanic group, accounting for 63 percent of all Hispanics in the U.S. labor force in 1992. As chart 2 shows, Central and South Americans represented another 16 percent, followed by Puerto Ricans (9 percent), Cubans (5 percent), and other persons of Hispanic origin or descent (7 percent).
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1 Estimates of labor force characteristics come from data obtained in the Current Population Survey. Identification of persons of Hispanic origin is obtained from responses to the survey question, "What is the origin or descent of each person in this household?" Respondents are shown a "flashcards" reproduced below, and those who indicate categories 10-17 are identified as being of Hispanic origin. Thus, Hispanics are defined as persons who themselves, or whose ancestors, are from Spanish-speaking countries.
What is the origin or descent of each person in this house-hold?
|04||French||16||Central or South American|
|30 Another group not listed|
Persons who report themselves as Mexican-American, Chicano, or Mexican are consolidated into one origin. As shown above, Central and South Americans are all identified according to a single category.
2 See table 2.6 of Karen A. Woodrow and Jeffrey S. Passel, "Post-IRCA undocumented immigration to the United States: an assessment based on the June 1988 CPS," p. 53, in Frank D. Bean, Barry Edmonston, and Jeffrey S. Passel, Undocumented Migration to the U.S. (Washington, The RAND Corporation and The Urban Institute, 1990), and immigration and Naturalization Service, 1990 Statistical yearbook (Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice, December 1991), pp. 52-53. Much of the apparent increase in number of recent legal immigrants is an artifact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, which legalized many who were already residing in the United States. The act provided am amnesty period for permanent residence, accounting for, bay far, the majority of all amnesty applications.
Job losses among Hispanics in the recent recession. June 1994.
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