Data Shows Immigrants No Longer Majority of Hispanics in U.S.
Policy + Politics

Data Shows Immigrants No Longer Majority of Hispanics in U.S.

REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released an analysis of government data revealing a dramatic shift in the demographics of the American workforce. 

For the first time in nearly twenty years, immigrants no longer make up the majority of Hispanic workers in the U.S., marking a dramatic shift in the demographics of the American workforce. 

The data, as analyzed by the Pew Research Center, found that of the more than 22 million employed Latinos in 2013, 49.7 percent were immigrants, a significant decrease from the pre-recession high of 56.1 percent in 2007. 

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The data points to a larger picture: Fewer and fewer Hispanics are coming to America. While the American Dream remains strong, a number of changes in recent years—from a lack of jobs during the recession, to anemic job growth during the recovery, to increased deportations, to tougher controls at the U.S. border—have convinced many that making the dangerous trek to America may not be worth the risk, or the high price. At the same time, the Mexican economy has improved, creating job opportunities at home. 

The data is proof that the headline-grabbing events and pictures - horrific crimes along the border, children coming home to empty houses, overcrowding of immigrant detention centers - distort public perception about the reality. When judged by the numbers, there are fewer illegal border crossings. In fact, the numbers began dropping during the Bush Administration. 

The Pew Report explained it this way: “From 2004 to 2007, during the height of the construction boom, immigrant Latinos gained 1.6 million jobs, two times the 829,000 new jobs secured by U.S.-born Latinos. During the recession, the construction sector alone let go of 520,000 Latino immigrants, with foreign-born Latinos losing 340,000 jobs overall. 

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Still some House members like Congressman Steve King (R-IA) only see bad news when it comes to immigration. He famously said, “for every one [immigrant] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” 

The data also showed that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, the U.S.-born Latino workforce rapidly expanded while the growth in the Latino immigrant workforce has slowed. Since the end of the recession in 2009, only 453,000 of the 2.8 million jobs gained by Latinos went to immigrants. 

At first glance, things look like they’re on the up-and-up for U.S.-born Latinos, at least compared to immigrants. But the reality is that their job growth was remarkably small during the recovery. The share of employed Hispanics increased to only 60 percent at the end of 2013 from 59 percent at the end of 2009. As the Pew Research analysis points out, this is because their jobs and population growth is progressing at a roughly equal pace. 

Most likely, this data won’t have a huge impact on politics—at least, not initially. But here’s the primary takeaway: The part of the data that will have the most significant affect on American politics is the growth in U.S.-born Latinos, which shows no sign of slowing down. As each of them ages and reach the age of 18 that means more voters. They are a potent political force already, and because their birthrate tends to be higher than both whites and African Americans, their power and influence will also continue to grow. 

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