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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

DOL Releases Immigrant Data

DOL's ILAB has released a report that tabulates employment data on foreign-and native-born adults in the US in March 1994. There were 22 million foreign-born adults and 179 million native-born adults, so that foreign-born persons were 11 percent of the US adult population.

The 13 million foreign-born adults in the US labor force in March 1994 were 10 percent of the 130 million strong labor force.

Foreign-born adults were less likely to be in the labor force than native-born adults (13 of 22 million or 59 percent of the foreign born, and 117 of 179 million or 65 percent of the native born); the gap for foreign-born women was especially large. Foreign-born adults were also more likely to be unemployed than the native-born (9.2 percent for the foreign-born, and 6.8 percent for the native born).

Foreign-born adults have a much different education distribution than native-born adults--the foreign-born are more likely to have a college degree or more, OR to have less than a ninth- grade education, than are native born adults. If foreign-born adults are arrayed by their years of education, the result is an hourglass shape, reflecting their concentration at the extremes of the education distribution. Native-born adults, by contrast, generate a diamond-shaped distribution.

The contrast between foreign-and native-born adults is sharpest in agriculture--only five percent of the self-employed farmers are foreign-born, versus 26 percent of the wage and salary farm workers. Most of the foreign-born adult farm workers were Hispanics from Mexico--Hispanics were 50 percent of the foreign-born adults in the US, and 86 percent of the foreign-born farm workers. About 72 percent of the foreign-born farm workers, versus eight percent of the native born farm workers--had less than nine years of schooling.

Over half of the foreign-born farm workers were in California, versus six percent of the native-born farm workers. The CPS, which asks about employment in March, does not include most of the foreign-born farm workers--many are not employed in March, and others arrive in April and May and stay in the US only until September or October.

About five percent of the foreign-born workers were employed by federal, state, or local governments, versus almost 20 percent of the native-born labor force. About 10 percent of both the foreign-born and the native-born were self-employed.

Foreign- and native- born adults have very different industry and occupational distributions. In nine broad industrial sectors, foreigners are disproportionately represented in agriculture and manufacturing, and under-represented in mining, transportation, and public administration.

Foreign-born adults are more likely to have farming or operative/laborer or service occupations than the native born, 47 percent versus 31 percent, and less likely to have the most common US occupation--technical, sales, or support.

There are significant differences in foreign-born and native-born workers by industry and occupation. For example, 63 percent of those employed in California agriculture are foreign born, versus 13 percent of those employed in New York agriculture in March 1994.

There are almost 100 million "families" in the US, and about nine million are headed by foreign-born persons. There are significantly more husband-wife households among the foreign born (70 percent) than among the native born (53 percent), but the foreign-born husband-wife families had much lower 1993 incomes, $32,000 versus $43,000.

In the states with the most foreign-born persons, one-fourth of all foreign-born families had incomes in 1993 that were below the poverty line.

NB. In late July, the House voted to reduce ILAB's funding by 86 percent, which may wipe out the US Department of Labor's $700,000 per year immigration research program. ILAB supported the collection of data on IRCA-legalized aliens (Westat survey), and has supported research of many aspects of the labor market effects of immigration.

US Department of Labor, International Labor Affairs Bureau. 1995. Labor Force, Income, and Poverty Statistics for the Foreign-Born Using the March 1994 Current Population Data. Washington, DC. Available by calling 202-219-9098 or fax 202-219-5071. Linda Levine, "Immigration: The Effects on Native-Born Workers," Congressional Research Report, July 1995, 15 pgs. Order no. 95-408 E, Penny Hill Press, 6440 Wiscasset Road, Bethesda, MD 20816, 301 229-8229 or fax 301 229-6988.