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Hispanics in the United States: Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

Group of business women and men working together.
October 2017
Hispanics in the United States: Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanics are a diverse group that includes Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central and South Americans, and Other Hispanics or Latinos. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects and publishes statistics on employment, earnings, consumer spending, time use, and workplace injuries by race and ethnicity. This Spotlight on Statistics explores trends in those data for the Hispanic or Latino U.S. population.


One out of every 6 people identify as Hispanic or Latino

In 2016, over 40 million people in the United States identified as Hispanic or Latino, representing 16 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and older. Although the Hispanic population has grown over time, White non-Hispanics continue to be the largest race and ethnic group in the United States.


More than three-fifths of Hispanics or Latinos were Mexican

More than three-fifths of Hispanics identified as Mexican in 2016. The next largest group, Puerto Ricans, represented 9 percent, followed by South Americans and Central Americans (excluding Salvadorans), at 7 and 6 percent, respectively. The Hispanic civilian population has grown significantly in recent years—increasing from 27.6 million in 2003 to 40.7 million in 2016. Detailed Hispanic groups have grown at about the same rate since 2003, when data on detailed Hispanic ethnicity were first collected.


Percentage of Hispanics or Latinos in U.S. labor force has grown since 1973

The share of the nation’s labor force that is Hispanic grew steadily from 1973 to 2016, increasing from 4 percent to 17 percent during that period. The total labor force has increased by 16.6 million during the 2000–16 period, with Hispanics or Latinos accounting for nearly two-thirds of the increase (10.1 million). Over the 1973–2016 period, the total civilian labor force increased by 69.8 million; one-third (about 23.1 million) of the increase occurred among Hispanics. According to BLS employment projections, the Hispanic labor force is expected to represent nearly one-fifth of the labor force by 2024, with a sizable share of the projected increase resulting from immigration. Foreign-born Hispanics are largely in younger age groups.


Hispanics or Latinos in the labor force were more likely to be younger than non-Hispanics

In 2016, 70.0 percent of Hispanics or Latinos in the U.S. labor force were ages 25 to 54, while 63.1 percent of non-Hispanics were in that age group. Even within that age range, Hispanics are more likely to be younger, whereas non-Hispanics are about evenly distributed among the 25 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54 age groups.

The share of the Hispanic labor force that was age 55 and older was around half that of non-Hispanics, 13.0 percent versus 24.4 percent. Therefore, the impact of aging baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964, who currently are ages 53 to 71—on the Hispanic labor force is less.


Hispanic or Latino men were more likely to be in the labor force

Overall, the share of Hispanics who participated in the labor force, 65.8 percent in 2016, was higher than that for non-Hispanics (62.2 percent). Historically, Hispanic men were more likely to participate in the labor force than were non-Hispanic men. Hispanic men ages 25 to 54 had higher labor force participation rates than non-Hispanic men (90.7 versus 88.0 percent). Non-Hispanic men had higher levels of labor force participation in the teenage years (36.2 versus 32.3 percent). The labor force participation rates were about the same for Hispanic and non-Hispanic men age 65 and older (24.0 versus 23.8 percent).

The proportion of Hispanic women who participated in the labor force—55.8 percent in 2016—was about 20 percentage points below that of Hispanic men. This difference was nearly double the disparity (10.8 percentage points) between the rates for non-Hispanic women and men. Hispanic women, regardless of age group, have lower labor force participation rates than non-Hispanic women. The difference in labor force participation rates between Hispanic and non-Hispanic women ages 25 to 54 was much more pronounced (9.3 percentage points).


Hispanics about half as likely as non-Hispanics to work in management-related occupations

Employed Hispanics or Latinos were less likely to work in management, professional, and related occupations than were non-Hispanics; about 22 percent of Hispanics were employed in these occupations, compared with 43 percent of non-Hispanics in 2016. Hispanics and non-Hispanics were about equally likely to work in sales and office occupations. Hispanics were more likely to work in service occupations (25 percent versus 16 percent). Within service occupations, Hispanics were more likely to work in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations than non-Hispanics. Similarly, within natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, Hispanics were more likely to work in construction and extraction occupations than non-Hispanics.


About one-fourth of Hispanics in the labor force have less than a high school diploma

About 30 percent of Hispanics or Latinos in the labor force were high school graduates with no college experience in 2016—the same proportion as in 1992. In contrast, Hispanics with less than a high school diploma represented 26 percent of the labor force in 2016, significantly less than the 39 percent they represented in 1992. Twenty percent of Hispanics or Latinos in the labor force had a bachelor’s degree or more education in 2016, nearly double their share in 1992.

Even though the percentage of Hispanics with less than a high school diploma has decreased steadily, especially during the last decade, it is still substantially higher than the percentage of non-Hispanics (4 percent in 2016). Non-Hispanics were more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher (43 percent in 2016).

Compared with Hispanics, non-Hispanics’ labor force participation by educational attainment varies much more. In 2016, non-Hispanics with less than a high school diploma had a labor force participation rate of 36.0 percent, compared with 73.6 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree and higher. Hispanics with less than a high school diploma participated in the labor force at a rate of 59.0 percent, compared with 79.8 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree and higher.


About 4 out of 5 Hispanic workers were private nonagricultural wage and salary workers

Although employed Hispanics were more likely than non-Hispanics to work in agriculture and related industries, only 2.4 percent of employed Hispanics worked in agriculture. For all race and ethnic groups, most workers were private nonagricultural wage and salary workers in 2016. The percentage of Hispanic workers, at 81.8 percent, fell about halfway between Whites and Asians. Almost 10 percent of Hispanics worked in government, significantly less than the 17.2 percent of Black workers. Hispanic were about equally as likely as White workers to be self-employed.


Foreign-born Hispanic workers earn around half as much as foreign-born Asian workers

The number of native-born Hispanic full-time workers is about equal to the number of foreign-born. Native-born Hispanics, however, earned more than foreign-born Hispanics ($697 versus $582) in 2016. This earnings premium for native-born workers is not seen in non-Hispanic groups, regardless of race. Among non-Hispanics, the largest difference in weekly earnings between native- and foreign-born workers is experienced by Whites; native-born White workers earned almost $100 less than their foreign-born counterparts. The earnings of native- and foreign-born Black workers are not appreciably different. Foreign-born Asian workers earned $1,061 per week, the most of any race or ethnic group. Differences in earnings reflect a variety of factors, including the distribution of foreign-born and native-born workers by educational attainment, occupation, industry, and geographic region. For example, median earnings are higher for those with greater educational attainment. On average, Hispanics have lower levels of educational attainment than non-Hispanics.


U.S.-born Hispanics had a higher unemployment rate than their foreign-born counterparts

Among all race and ethnic groups in 2016, unemployment rates were lowest for foreign-born people who were U.S. citizens. For Hispanics or Latinos, the difference between native-born and foreign-born U.S. citizens was 2.7 percentage points. Among the native born, the Hispanic unemployment rate of 6.8 percent was higher than that of Whites and Asians but lower than that of Blacks. That same pattern holds among the foreign-born for U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens.


Hispanics are a large share of the labor force in the Southwest

The share of each state’s labor force that is Hispanic or Latino varies widely. The largest concentration is found in the Southwest. In New Mexico, Hispanics made up 44.8 percent of the labor force in 2016. West Virginia’s labor force had the smallest share, 1.3 percent. In the states with the largest labor force, California and Texas, Hispanics also made up large shares of the labor force (35.8 and 36.5 percent, respectively). In 14 states, Hispanics made up 5.0 percent or less of the labor force.

In most states, Hispanics increased their share of the labor force since 2011. The largest increases occurred in Oklahoma (+5.7 percentage points), Oregon (+5.6 points), and Florida (+5.5 points). Declines occurred in New Jersey (−1.4 percentage points) and, to a smaller extent, California and Kentucky (−0.1 point each).


Food spending accounted for 14.5 percent of Hispanic household budgets in 2015

In 2015, total spending by Hispanic households was about $48,000, lower than the $60,000 spent by White households but $7,000 more than spending by Black households. Hispanic households were larger (3.1 people, compared with 2.4 people for both White and Black households). Hispanic households had more children under age 18 (1.0 children, compared with 0.5 for White and 0.6 for Black households). Hispanic households also had fewer adults age 65 and older (0.2 older adults, compared with 0.4 for White and 0.3 for Black households).

While food accounted for a greater share of the budget of Hispanic households than White or Black households, the amount spent was not much different from White households but more than food spending in Black households. Housing was the largest expenditure for all groups. Housing accounted for 35.4 percent of the budget of Hispanic households, compared with 32.0 percent for White households and 37.7 percent for Black households. The $9,000 spent by Hispanic households on transportation was not significantly different from the amounts spent by the other two groups. The amounts spent by Hispanic and Black households on healthcare were not different from each other but less than the amount spent by Whites. Clothing expenditures accounted for a small proportion of the household budget for all three groups.


Hispanic workers were more likely to be injured by contact with objects and equipment

Workers can be injured in a variety of ways. In 2015, there were 125,360 Hispanic private-sector workers who sustained nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. Hispanic workers represented 22 percent of the total injuries and illnesses for all private-sector workers (for cases where race and ethnicity was reported). For Hispanic workers, 32 percent were injured by contact with objects and equipment, 7 percentage points higher than for non-Hispanics. Overexertion and bodily reaction accounted for 30 percent of nonfatal injuries and illnesses for Hispanic workers, compared with 34 percent among non-Hispanic workers.


Hispanic workers accounted for 19 percent of work fatalities in 2015

In 2015, 903 Hispanic or Latino workers were fatally injured while at work. Fatal injuries incurred by Hispanic workers accounted for 19 percent of the 4,836 total fatal work injuries. Hispanic workers had a higher fatal work injury rate than that of all workers (4.0 versus 3.4 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.) Foreign-born Hispanics accounted for about two-thirds of the fatal work injuries to Hispanic workers. Almost half of all fatal work injuries to Hispanic workers involved a roadway incident or a fall to lower level.


Hispanics spend less time in leisure, more time working

On an average day in 2016, Hispanics spent less time in leisure and sports (4.5 hours) than did non-Hispanics (5.2 hours). This was true of both men and women; Hispanic men spent 36 minutes less in leisure and sports than did non-Hispanic men, and Hispanic women spent 48 minutes less in leisure and sports than did non-Hispanic women. Hispanic women spent more time doing household activities (2.5 hours) and caring for and helping household members (1.1 hours), on average, than did non-Hispanic women (2.2 hours and 0.6 hours, respectively).

Hispanic men spent more time working and doing work-related activities (4.8 hours) compared with non-Hispanic men (4.3 hours), non-Hispanic women (2.9 hours), and Hispanic women (2.8 hours). These estimates are averages across all days of the week and include employed and unemployed people and those not in the labor force. The differences in time-use estimates between Hispanics and non-Hispanics partly reflect the younger age of the Hispanic population.

More information

Hispanics or Latinos may be of any race. In this Spotlight on Statistics, “Hispanic” refers to all Hispanics or Latinos (shortened for simplicity). Likewise, for simplicity the Spotlight uses the term “White” for people who identify their race as White but are not Hispanic Latino. The term “Black” is used for people who are Black or African-American but not Hispanic or Latino. Similarly, the term “Asian” is used for people who are Asian but not Hispanic or Latino.

Sources of data in this Spotlight on Statistics

For more information about people of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, please see the following sources: