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Meeting of October 23, 2008 – Issues Facing Hispanics in the Federal Workplace

Statement of Jeffrey S. Passel Senior Demographer, Pew Hispanic Center

Good morning, Madame Chair and Commissioners. I am Jeff Passel, Senior Demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center here in Washington. Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today. The Pew Hispanic Center is a project of the Pew Research Center. Our mission is “to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the nation.” We are a non-partisan “fact tank” and do not take positions on policy issues nor advocate for or against specific policies.

The material I have given the Commission provides a picture of the demographic position of Hispanics over the last 50 years and the next 40 or so through 2050, as well as their potential impact on the country’s future work force. It also describes some of the current labor force characteristics of this population with a particular emphasis on factors affecting Hispanics’ representation in the Federal work force. Rather than go through the material step by step, I will outline some of the highlights in the limited time I have for my statement.

Population Growth

Latinos are a dynamic group that have accounted for half of the Nation’s population growth this decade. Going forward, Hispanics will dominate future population change even more. Today, the country’s 45 million Hispanics represent about 15% of the total population of 300 million. By 2050, the number of Hispanics is projected to almost triple, reaching 128 million and their representation will almost double to 29% of the projected population of about 440 million. This change represents about 60 percent of the country’s future growth.

Today, we are on the cusp of a significant transformation in Hispanic growth patterns. Immigrants represent roughly 40% of the Hispanic population and about 54% of the Hispanic workforce. These percentages have probably peaked. Even though Hispanic immigration continues at the high levels seen in the last 2 decades, a greater share of Hispanic growth since 2000 has come from births rather than from immigrants; that is, we are seeing more native Hispanics added to the population than foreign.born. This has not happened since the 1960s. As we go forward, the numbers of births will grow much faster than the projected number of Hispanic immigrants. Consequently, a growing share of the Hispanic population and the Hispanic workforce will be U.S. natives, and thus, U.S. citizens.

Labor Force Growth and Characteristics

Hispanic growth and immigration will continue to play a vital role in the future U.S. labor force. Without future immigration, the U.S. workforce would begin to decline after about 2015. Hispanics, who represent about 14% of today’s workers will account for more than 30% in 2050. Even today, though, the number of both native and foreign.born Hispanic workers is growing 6–7 times faster than the non.Hispanic workforce.

There are, however, significant differences between Hispanic and non.Hispanic workers. Latinos, as a group, are significantly younger and less educated than non.Hispanic workers. Hispanics account for about 40% of workers who have not graduated from high school or almost 3 times their share of the overall workforce.

This educational differential is a factor explaining, in part, why the Hispanic share of the Federal workforce is less than their overall representation. A more important factor, however, is citizenship. Notwithstanding a substantial increase in naturalization rates over the last dozen years, especially among Hispanic immigrants, only about 60% of today’s Hispanic workers are U.S. citizens. Thus, the almost 14 million Hispanic citizens in the labor force represent only about 10 percent of the U.S. citizen workforce. In contrast, the 8.5 million non.citizen Hispanic workers, about half of whom are unauthorized, account for 60% of the non-citizens in the workforce.

A majority of Hispanic workers who have attended college are U.S. citizens. But, for both citizen and non.citizen workers, the share who are Hispanic decreases substantially with increasing levels of education. One specific indication of the potential problems in increasing Hispanic representation in the Federal workforce is that only about 5 percent of U.S. citizen workers with a college degree, undergraduate and graduate, are Hispanic.

The profile of the Hispanic workforce directly reflects their educational and citizenship characteristics. The industries with the highest representation of Hispanics are construction, agriculture, leisure and hospitality, and other services; those with the lowest representation are information, public administration, education and health services, and financial services. Occupations of Hispanic workers show the same patterns as Hispanics are greatly overrepresented in farming, cleaning and maintenance, construction jobs, and production jobs-those jobs that generally do not require education or certification; they are greatly underrepresented in science, engineering, legal and healthcare professions. Thus, Hispanics tend to be in jobs where Federal employment is not concentrated and not in those where it is.

In the future, these profiles will probably change. More U.S..born Hispanics will age into the workforce; they will have more education than their immigrant parents and grandparents. Naturalization rates are likely to continue to increase. And, in the long run, the education levels of new immigrants will probably improve. Hispanic representation is likely to grow in fields where the U.S. government needs workers. Thus, general demographic trends should lead to more Hispanic citizens and a more highly educated population-factors that can, in turn, help to increased representation of Hispanics in the Federal work force.

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. I will be glad to try to answer any questions you may have.