There are about 24 million workers of Hispanic descent in the United States. While this group is frequently referred to as a single entity, the reality is that these workers come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, each with their own challenges in the labor market. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) provides an overview of the diverse backgrounds of the Hispanic workforce, and shows how each group experiences unique challenges in the labor market, specifically in terms of unemployment, wages, poverty, language barriers, and access to health and retirement benefits.
The report, “Hispanic Workers in the United States” also shows that union representation has helped to address some of these challenges. Some highlights from the report include:
- Workers of Mexican descent are by far the largest subgroup of the Hispanic workforce (14.9 million);
- Women make up only 43.3 percent of the overall Hispanic workforce, but they are a majority of several subgroups, including Panamanians (58.1 percent), Bolivians (53.2 percent), and Paraguayans (51.0 percent);
- About two-thirds of Hispanic workers are U.S. citizens – Puerto Ricans (98.7 percent) and Spaniards (90.9 percent) are the groups most likely to be citizens;
- Hispanic workers in general are more likely than workers of any other race/ethnicity to be in poverty. Among Hispanics, Guatemalans are most likely to be members of the working poor (19.1 percent);
- About 30 percent of Hispanic workers do not have health insurance, but over half of Guatemalan and Honduran workers lack health insurance.
Connecticut’s population is 15 percent Hispanic, the 11th largest Hispanic statewide population share nationally, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. The Latino population increased by 50 percent in Connecticut from 2000 to 2010. The highest percentage of Hispanics in Connecticut municipalities are in Hartford, Willimantic, Bridgeport, New Britain, Waterbury, Meriden, New Haven, New London, Stamford and Danbury, according to Zip Atlas. In Connecticut, Mexicans are the second largest Hispanic community in the state behind Puerto Rican residents, CT Mirror has reported. Willimantic, New Haven and Norwalk have the three highest Mexican populations in Connecticut, with 5.24 percent, 2.8 percent and 2.28 percent, according to 2013 data.
The American Immigration Council reports that the Latino share of Connecticut’s population grew from 6.5% in 1990, to 9.4% in 2000, to 14.7% (or 527,163 people) in 2013. In 2009, 94.4% of children in Latino families in Connecticut were U.S. citizens.
Orlando Rodriguez, former legislative analyst at the now-defunct state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, told ctlatinonews.com last year that Connecticut’s future is largely dependent on how successful Latinos are in getting into the middle class, and how successful the state is in being able to create middle class jobs for them.
“Simply put,” he said, “The numbers are growing, and if Latinos don’t enter the middle class of Connecticut in large numbers, the state’s economy will feel it negatively…and if they do enter it in large numbers, the economy will grow.”
Cherrie Bucknor, author of the CEPR report explained, “Understanding the diversity and challenges faced by Hispanic workers is key to making better policy decisions.” The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives.