Foreign-born Workers in 2020
June 21, 2021
There were 27.3 million foreign-born workers in the 161 million strong US labor force in 2020, down from 27.5 million in the 164 million strong labor force in 2019. Foreign-born workers were 17 percent of all US workers in 2020, but they accounted for almost 40 percent of the decline in the US workforce between 2019 and 2020.
The foreign-born US labor force shrank in 2020
The unemployment rate of foreign-born workers was lower than the rate for US-born workers in 2019, 3.1 versus 3.8 percent for US-born workers, but higher in 2020, 9.2 versus 7.8 percent for US-born workers. A higher share of foreign-born workers lost jobs in 2020.
A higher share of foreign-born workers lost jobs in 2020 (percentage decline in employment between Feb 2020 and Jan 2021)
Foreign-born men have higher labor force participation rates than US-born men, 77 percent compared to 66 percent in 2020. Foreign-born women have a lower participation rate, 53 percent compared to 57 percent for US-born women. Foreign-born workers are mostly male, 57 percent compared to 52 percent of US-born workers, and more likely to be in the 25-54 age group, 73 percent compared to 62 percent for US-born workers.
Over 19 percent of foreign-born workers 25 and older did not complete high school in 2020, compared with four percent of US born workers. About 40 percent of foreign-born adult workers, and 44 percent of US born adult workers, had college degrees in 2020.
Foreign-born workers were concentrated in particular occupations, including agriculture, construction, and maintenance occupations that have a higher share of foreign-born than US-born workers. Two percent of foreign-born men, compared to 0.8 percent of US-born men, were in farming. Similarly, 15 percent of foreign-born men, compared to eight percent of US-born men, were in construction occupations. Among women, nine percent of foreign-born women, compared to two percent of US-born women, were in cleaning and maintenance occupations.
The median earnings of foreign-born workers were 12 percent lower than the median earnings of US-born workers, $885 a week compared to $1,000 in 2020. The gap in earnings was larger for foreign-born men than for foreign-born women, who earned 88 percent as much as US-born women, $798 versus $903. Similarly, the earnings gap was larger for older workers: foreign-born workers 55 to 64 earned $869, which was 76 percent of the $1,137 of US-born workers in the same age group. Foreign-born workers aged 25-34 earned $885 a week, which was 98 percent of the $907 of similar US-born workers.
Foreign-born workers earn less than US-born workers, but the earnings gap is narrowing
The gap between the earnings of foreign-born and US-born reverses as education rises. Foreign-born workers with less than a high-school education earned an average $601 a week in 2020, compared to $655 for similar US-born workers. However, foreign-born workers with college degrees earned an average $1,492 a week, more than the $1,409 of similar US-born workers.
Foreign-born workers with at least BS degrees earned more than US-born workers with at least BS degrees
Almost half of foreign-born workers were Hispanic and a quarter were Asian in 2020. Hispanics were 12 percent and Asians were two percent of US-born workers in 2020.
There were 13 million foreign-born Hispanic workers in 2020, and 16 million US-born Hispanic workers. Foreign-born Hispanic workers with less than a high school education were much more likely to be in the labor force than similar US-born Hispanics: 56 percent of foreign-born Hispanics without high school diplomas were in the labor force in 2020, compared to 36 percent of US-born Hispanics.
|Civilian noninstitutional population||Civilian labor force||Civilian noninstitutional population||Civilian labor force|
|Total||Participation rate||Employed||Unemployed||Total||Participation rate||Employed||Unemployed|
|Number||Unemployment rate||Number||Unemployment rate|
|Total, 16 years and over||259,175||163,539||63.1||157,538||6,001||3.7||260,329||160,742||61.7||147,795||12,947||8.1|
|Total, 16 years and over||42,990||28,390||66.0||27,502||888||3.1||42,361||27,316||64.5||24,809||2,507||9.2|
|16 to 24 years||3,330||1,735||52.1||1,619||116||6.7||3,149||1,604||50.9||1,373||231||14.4|
|25 to 34 years||7,665||5,917||77.2||5,726||191||3.2||7,208||5,470||75.9||4,966||504||9.2|
|35 to 44 years||9,361||7,459||79.7||7,273||187||2.5||9,103||7,150||78.5||6,599||551||7.7|
|45 to 54 years||8,878||7,219||81.3||7,018||201||2.8||8,793||6,993||79.5||6,367||626||8.9|
|55 to 64 years||6,699||4,585||68.5||4,450||135||3.0||6,831||4,637||67.9||4,191||446||9.6|
|65 years and over||7,057||1,475||20.9||1,416||59||4.0||7,278||1,461||20.1||1,312||149||10.2|
|Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicityj (1)|
|White non-Hispanic or Latino||7,710||4,651||60.3||4,515||136||2.9||7,377||4,420||59.9||4,087||333||7.5|
|Black non-Hispanic or Latino||3,837||2,716||70.8||2,606||110||4.1||3,979||2,757||69.3||2,463||294||10.7|
|Asian non-Hispanic or Latino||11,180||7,187||64.3||7,013||174||2.4||10,966||6,848||62.4||6,252||595||8.7|
|Hispanic or Latino ethnicity||19,753||13,506||68.4||13,046||460||3.4||19,569||12,978||66.3||11,723||1,255||9.7|
|Total, 25 years and over||39,660||26,655||67.2||25,883||773||2.9||39,212||25,712||65.6||23,436||2,276||8.9|
|Less than a high school diploma||9,494||5,432||57.2||5,217||214||3.9||8,762||4,886||55.8||4,328||558||11.4|
|High school graduates, no collegej (2)||9,983||6,632||66.4||6,454||178||2.7||10,023||6,302||62.9||5,617||685||10.9|
|Some college or associate degree||6,233||4,312||69.2||4,196||116||2.7||6,192||4,153||67.1||3,767||386||9.3|
|Bachelor's degree and higherj (3)||13,950||10,280||73.7||10,015||264||2.6||14,235||10,371||72.9||9,723||648||6.2|
|Total, 16 years and over||216,185||135,148||62.5||130,036||5,112||3.8||217,968||133,427||61.2||122,986||10,441||7.8|
|16 to 24 years||34,418||19,358||56.2||17,703||1,654||8.5||34,336||18,603||54.2||15,819||2,784||15.0|
|25 to 34 years||37,211||31,274||84.0||30,081||1,193||3.8||37,636||31,036||82.5||28,460||2,576||8.3|
|35 to 44 years||31,599||26,598||84.2||25,854||743||2.8||32,227||26,833||83.3||25,208||1,625||6.1|
|45 to 54 years||31,566||25,713||81.5||25,024||689||2.7||31,078||25,148||80.9||23,731||1,416||5.6|
|55 to 64 years||35,542||23,018||64.8||22,443||575||2.5||35,360||22,656||64.1||21,262||1,393||6.1|
|65 years and over||45,848||9,188||20.0||8,931||257||2.8||47,330||9,152||19.3||8,506||646||7.1|
|Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicityj (1)|
|White non-Hispanic or Latino||154,457||96,132||62.2||93,210||2,922||3.0||154,711||94,284||60.9||88,161||6,123||6.5|
|Black non-Hispanic or Latino||27,105||16,566||61.1||15,497||1,069||6.5||27,296||16,089||58.9||14,237||1,851||11.5|
|Asian non-Hispanic or Latino||4,720||2,973||63.0||2,874||99||3.3||5,021||3,153||62.8||2,889||264||8.4|
|Hispanic or Latino ethnicity||23,754||15,547||65.4||14,759||788||5.1||24,614||15,992||65.0||14,229||1,763||11.0|
|Total, 25 years and over||181,767||115,791||63.7||112,333||3,458||3.0||183,632||114,824||62.5||107,167||7,656||6.7|
|Less than a high school diploma||12,132||4,544||37.5||4,224||320||7.0||11,138||4,043||36.3||3,561||483||11.9|
|High school graduates, no collegej (2)||52,476||29,530||56.3||28,383||1,146||3.9||52,098||28,440||54.6||25,989||2,450||8.6|
|Some college or associate degree||51,280||33,108||64.6||32,086||1,022||3.1||51,135||32,248||63.1||29,803||2,446||7.6|
|Bachelor's degree and higherj (3)||65,878||48,609||73.8||47,640||969||2.0||69,260||50,092||72.3||47,815||2,277||4.5|
|1 Data for race/ethnicity groups do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races.
2 Includes persons with a high school diploma or equivalent.
3 Includes persons with bachelor's, master's, professional, and doctoral degrees.
|NOTE: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.|