Ethnic Background Matters When Talking About Hispanic Workers in the U.S.

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Ethnic Background Matters When Talking About Hispanic Workers in the U.S.

WASHINGTON - 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;

• Hispanic union workers earn 24.9 percent (about $3.99 per hour) more than their non-union peers, are 30.3 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 27.7 percentage points more likely to have employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Cherrie Bucknor, author of the report explained, “Understanding the diversity and challenges faced by Hispanic workers is key to making better policy decisions. This report shows that unionization is an important tool to improve the economic conditions of Hispanic workers.”

You can read the full report here.

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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