Economic News Release

Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Thursday, May 21, 2015                           USDL-15-0971

Technical information: (202) 691-6378  •  cpsinfo@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/cps
Media contact:         (202) 691-5902  •  PressOffice@bls.gov


                FOREIGN-BORN WORKERS: LABOR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS -- 2014


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 5.6 percent
in 2014, down from 6.9 percent in 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. The jobless rate of native-born persons fell to 6.3 percent from 7.5 percent
in the prior year. 

Data on nativity are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a
monthly sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. The foreign born are persons
who reside in the United States but who were born outside the country or one of its
outlying areas to parents who were not U.S. citizens. The foreign born include legally-
admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary
workers, and undocumented immigrants. The survey data, however, do not separately
identify the numbers of persons in these categories. For further information about the
survey, see the Technical Note.

Highlights from the 2014 data:

    --In 2014, there were 25.7 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force,
      comprising 16.5 percent of the total. (See table 1.)

    --Hispanics accounted for 48.3 percent of the foreign-born labor force in 2014
      and Asians accounted for 24.1 percent. (See table 1.) (Data in this news release
      for persons who are white, black, or Asian do not include those of Hispanic or
      Latino ethnicity. Data on persons of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity are presented
      separately.)

    --Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in
      service occupations and less likely to be employed in management, professional,
      and related occupations and in sales and office occupations. (See table 4.)

    --The median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary
      workers were $664 in 2014, compared with $820 for their native-born counterparts.
      (See table 5.) (Differences in earnings reflect a variety of factors, including
      variations in the distributions of foreign-born and native-born workers by
      educational attainment, occupation, industry, and geographic region.)

Demographic Characteristics

The demographic composition of the foreign-born labor force differs from that of the
native-born labor force. In 2014, men accounted for 58.1 percent of the foreign-born
labor force, compared with 52.2 percent of the native-born labor force. By age, the
proportion of the foreign-born labor force made up of 25- to 54-year-olds (74.3 percent)
was higher than for the native-born labor force (62.7 percent). Labor force participation
is typically highest among persons in that age range. (See table 1.)

In 2014, nearly half (48.3 percent) of the foreign-born labor force was Hispanic, and
almost one-quarter (24.1 percent) was Asian, compared with 9.9 percent and 1.8 percent,
respectively, of the native-born labor force. About 17.5 percent of the foreign-born
labor force was white and 9.0 percent was black, compared with 73.9 percent and 11.9
percent, respectively, of the native-born labor force.

In 2014, 23.8 percent of the foreign-born labor force age 25 and over had not completed
high school, compared with 4.6 percent of the native-born labor force. The foreign born
were less likely than the native born to have some college or an associate degree--17.5
percent versus 29.9 percent. The proportions for foreign-born and native-born persons
that had a bachelor’s degree or higher were more similar, at 34.2 percent and 38.2
percent, respectively. 

Labor Force

The share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was foreign born was 16.5 percent in
2014, about the same as in 2013, but up from 13.3 percent in 2000. (See table 1.)

In 2014, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born was 66.0 percent,
compared with 62.3 percent for the native born. The participation rate for the foreign
born was little different from the prior year, while that for the native born continued
to trend down. 

The participation rate of foreign-born men was 78.7 percent in 2014, higher than the
rate of 67.4 percent for native-born men. In contrast, 53.9 percent of foreign-born
women were labor force participants, lower than the rate of 57.5 percent for native-born
women.

Among the major race and ethnicity groups in 2014, labor force participation rates for
foreign-born Asians declined by 1.3 percentage points to 63.8 percent, while the rates
for foreign-born whites (59.5 percent), blacks (71.1 percent), and Hispanics (68.9 percent)
were little different from the prior year. In comparison, the participation rate for
native-born whites (62.6 percent) declined in 2014, while the rates for blacks 
(59.7 percent), Asians (62.2 percent), and Hispanics (63.6 percent) showed little change.

In 2014, foreign-born mothers with children under 18 years old were less likely to be
labor force participants than were native-born mothers--59.1 percent versus 73.1 percent.
Labor force participation differences between foreign-born and native-born mothers were
greater among those with younger children than among those with older children. The labor
force participation rate of foreign-born mothers with children under age 6 was 50.1
percent in 2014, much lower than that for native-born mothers with children under age 6,
at 68.2 percent. Among women with children under age 3, the participation rate for the
foreign born (45.4 percent) was 19.7 percentage points below that for native-born mothers
(65.1 percent). The labor force participation rates of foreign-born and native-born fathers
with children under age 18 were more similar, at 93.8 percent and 92.4 percent,
respectively. (See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West
(23.8 percent) and in the Northeast (19.2 percent) than for the nation as a whole
(16.5 percent) in 2014. In contrast, the foreign born made up a smaller share of the
labor force than for the nation as a whole in the South (15.3 percent) and Midwest
(8.5 percent). (See table 6.)

Unemployment

From 2013 to 2014, the unemployment rate of the foreign born declined from 6.9 percent
to 5.6 percent, and the jobless rate for the native born fell from 7.5 percent to 6.3
percent. The over-the-year decrease in the unemployment rates of the foreign born and
the native born reflected decreases in the rates for both men and women. The unemployment
rate for foreign-born men fell from 6.4 percent to 5.0 percent, and the rate for foreign-
born women was down from 7.5 percent to 6.5 percent. Among the native born, the rate for
men fell from 7.9 percent to 6.5 percent, while the rate for women was down from 7.0 percent
to 6.0 percent. (See table 1.)

For both the foreign born and the native born, jobless rates vary considerably by race and
ethnicity.  Among the foreign born, blacks had the highest unemployment rate (8.6 percent)
in 2014. The unemployment rates were 5.9 percent for Hispanics, 4.7 percent for whites,
and 4.6 percent for Asians. Among the native born, blacks also had the highest jobless
rate (11.8 percent) in 2014, followed by Hispanics (8.8 percent). The unemployment rates
were 5.6 percent for Asians and 4.9 percent for whites. 

Occupation

In 2014, foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in
service occupations (24.1 percent versus 16.4 percent); in production, transportation,
and material moving occupations (15.6 percent versus 11.2 percent); and in natural
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (13.7 percent versus 8.4 percent).
(See table 4.)

Native-born workers were more likely than foreign-born workers to be employed in management,
professional, and related occupations (39.8 percent versus 30.7 percent) and in sales and
office occupations (24.2 percent versus 16.0 percent).

Foreign-born men were more likely than native-born men to work in natural resources,
construction, and maintenance occupations and in service occupations. Compared with
native-born women, foreign-born women were more likely to be in service occupations
and in production, transportation, and material moving occupations. Among women, the
disparity was especially great in service occupations; 32.4 percent of foreign-born
women worked in service occupations in 2014, compared with 19.5 percent of native-born
women. Native-born women were more likely than foreign-born women to be in sales and
office occupations, 31.5 percent versus 22.2 percent.

Earnings

In 2014, the median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born, full-time wage and salary
workers ($664) were 81.0 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts($820).
Among men, median weekly earnings for the foreign-born men ($695) were 76.2 percent of
the earnings of their native-born counterparts ($912). Median earnings for foreign-
born women ($613) were 83.5 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts
($734). Differences in earnings reflect a variety of factors, including variations in
the distributions of foreign-born and native-born workers by educational attainment,
occupation, industry, and geographic region. (See table 5.)

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic foreign-born full-time wage and
salary workers earned 79.0 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2014.
For white, black, and Asian workers, earnings for the foreign born and the native born
were relatively close within each group.

The earnings of both foreign-born and native-born workers increase with education. In
2014, foreign-born workers age 25 and over with less than a high school education earned
$463 per week, while those with a bachelor’s degree and higher earned about 2.6 times as
much--$1,222 per week. Among the native born, those with a bachelor’s degree and higher
earned about 2.3 times as much as those with less than a high school education--$1,188 
versus $517 per week.

Native-born workers earn more than the foreign born at most educational attainment levels.
The gap between the earnings of foreign-born and native-born workers closes at higher
levels of education. For example, among high school graduates (no college), full-time
workers who were foreign born earned 84.3 percent as much in 2014 as their native-born
counterparts. Among those with a bachelor’s degree and higher, the earnings of foreign-born
workers were essentially the same as the earnings of native-born workers.



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Last Modified Date: May 21, 2015
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