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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers Technical Note

Technical Note

   The estimates in this news release are based on annual average data from
the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS, which is conducted by
the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is a
monthly survey of about 60,000 eligible households that provides
information on the labor force status, demographics, and other
characteristics of the nation's civilian noninstitutional population
age 16 and over. In response to the increased demand for statistical
information about the foreign born, questions on nativity,
citizenship, year of entry into the United States, and the parental
nativity of respondents were added to the CPS beginning in January
1994. Prior to 1994, the primary sources of data on the foreign born
were the decennial census, two CPS supplements (conducted in April
1983 and November 1989), and, to some extent, information collected by
the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly known as the
Immigration and Naturalization Service).

   The foreign- and native-born data presented in this news release are not
strictly comparable with data for earlier years due to the introduction
of updated population estimates, or controls, used in the CPS. The
population controls are updated each year in January to reflect the
latest information about population change. Additional information is
available from the BLS website at

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Reliability of the estimates

   Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and
nonsampling error. When a sample, rather than the entire population,
is surveyed, there is a chance that the sample estimates may differ
from the true population values they represent. The component of this
difference that occurs because samples differ by chance is known as
sampling error, and its variability is measured by the standard error
of the estimate. There is about a 90-percent chance, or level of
confidence, that an estimate based on a sample will differ by no more
than 1.6 standard errors from the true population value because of
sampling error. BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent
level of confidence.

   The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error. Nonsampling
error can occur for many reasons, including the failure to sample a
segment of the population, inability to obtain information for all
respondents in the sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents
to provide correct information, and errors made in the collection or
processing of the data.

   Additional information about the reliability of data from the CPS
and estimating standard errors is available at


   Definitions of the principal terms used in this news release are
presented below.

   Foreign born. The foreign born are people residing in the United
States who were not U.S. citizens at birth. Specifically, they were born
outside the United States (or one of its outlying areas such as Guam or
Puerto Rico), and neither parent was a U.S. citizen. The foreign-born 
population includes legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary 
residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.
The survey data, however, do not separately identify the number of people 
in these categories.

   Native born. The native born are people born in the United States
or one of its outlying areas such as Puerto Rico or Guam or who were
born abroad of at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen.

   Race and ethnicity groups. In this news release, the data are presented
for non-Hispanic Whites, Blacks, and Asians and for people of
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. These four groups are mutually exclusive
but not exhaustive. Other race groups (including people who selected
more than one race category) are included in the overall totals but
are not shown separately because the number of survey respondents is
too small to develop statistically reliable estimates. The presentation
of data on race and ethnicity in this news release differs from that
which appears in most analyses of CPS labor force data because people
of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity are separated from the race groups.
Because people of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity can be of any race,
they are usually included in the race groups as well as shown
separately in the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity group. The reason for
the difference in the data presentation in this news release is because
about half of the foreign born are of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity and
they have somewhat different labor force characteristics than the non-
Hispanic foreign born.

   Employed. Employed people are all those who, during the survey
reference week, (a) did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked
in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; or (c) worked
15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family member's business.
People who were temporarily absent from their jobs because of
illness, bad weather, vacation, labor dispute, or another reason also
are counted as employed.

   Unemployed. The unemployed are those who had no employment during
the reference week, were available for work at that time, and had made
specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period
ending with the reference week. People who were waiting to be
recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not be
looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

   Civilian labor force. The civilian labor force comprises all
people classified as employed or unemployed.

   Unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is the number unemployed
as a percent of the civilian labor force.

   Labor force participation rate. The labor force participation rate
is the labor force as a percent of the population.

   Usual weekly earnings. Data represent earnings before taxes and
other deductions and include any overtime pay, commissions, or tips
usually received (at the main job in the case of multiple jobholders).
Earnings reported on a basis other than weekly are converted to a
weekly equivalent.

   Full-time wage and salary workers. These are workers who usually
work 35 hours or more per week at their sole or principal job and
receive wages, salaries, and other types of compensation. The group
includes employees in both the private and public sectors but, for
purposes of the earnings series, excludes all self-employed people,
regardless of whether or not their businesses are incorporated.

   Median earnings. The median earnings is the amount which divides a
given earnings distribution into two equal groups, one having earnings
above the median and the other having earnings below the median.

Last Modified Date: May 21, 2024