Differences in Workers’ Employment, Education, and Industry by Ethnicity

by Gail Krumenauer

October 15, 2019

The Minnesota Population Center maintains public use microdata for the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The customizable crosstabs of information include survey respondents’ age, race and ethnicity, educational attainment, and their industry of employment.

Population x Education

According to the 2013-2017 five-year ACS estimates (the most current available), Oregon had roughly 2.1 million people between the ages of 25 and 64. Of them, 236,000 were of Hispanic or Latino origin, while the state’s non-Hispanic population in the same prime working age range totaled 1.9 million. The non-Hispanic population includes Oregonians of any race (African-American, Asian, Native American, White, or any other race(s)) that did not self-identify as Hispanic or Latino.

Educational attainment differed widely between Hispanic and non-Hispanic prime working age populations. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the non-Hispanic population had some education beyond high school. Meanwhile, two-thirds (67%) of the Hispanic population had a high school diploma or less.
Labor Force Participation

Employment and labor force participation also varied notably between Hispanic and non-Hispanic populations. At all education levels, larger shares of the Hispanic prime working age population were in the labor force. The largest disparities occurred among those with less education. Nearly half (45%) of the non-Hispanic population with less than a high school degree sat out of the labor force, compared with 21 percent of Hispanic or Latino Oregonians in the same age group. Among those with at least some college education, shares of the population who were employed looked quite similar.
People may opt out of the labor force for many reasons: to raise small children, care for elderly parents, take early retirement, or return to school for additional training. Others may not be able to participate in the labor force due to an illness or disability, family responsibilities, or other reasons.

Industry Employment

Oregon’s employment by industry also showed noticeable differences by ethnicity. As with labor force participation, the contrasts tended to occur among the population with lower educational attainment. Nearly one-third (31%) of workers of Hispanic or Latino origin with less than a high school diploma worked in one of two sectors: leisure and hospitality, which includes hotels and restaurants; and natural resources, which includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and mining.
By comparison, employment for non-Hispanic workers with a high school diploma or less tended to be more concentrated in three sectors. They included retail trade; education and health care and social assistance; and transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Workers ages 25 to 64 with some college, associate, bachelor’s, or advanced degrees showed similar employment distributions across industries, regardless of ethnicity.

Education Pays

Hispanic and Latino workers ages 25 to 64 with a high school diploma or less were particularly concentrated in lower-wage industries. Annual wages for all jobs covered by Unemployment Insurance in Oregon averaged $52,400 in 2018. While roughly one-third (35%) of all non-Hispanic workers held jobs in sectors that paid below the all-industry average, nearly half (48%) of Hispanic workers did. As educational attainment increased, the distribution of industry employment looked similar by ethnicity.
Manufacturing and construction showed similar patterns for Hispanics and non-Hispanics. Comparable shares of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic prime-age workers across education categories held jobs in manufacturing. Larger shares of prime-age workers with a high school degree or less held jobs in construction compared with more educated workers.

Few workers of any ethnicity with lower educational attainment were found in the professional and information or professional and technical services sector, which paid the highest wages in 2018. Generally, three-fourths of all workers in these sectors have at least some college education. Other sectors with at least three-fourths jobs held by workers with some level of higher education include education services, health care, and public administration. These industries generally paid above-average wages, and generally had more concentrated employment among those with postsecondary education.

Keep Learning for Higher Earnings

Overall, the portion of Oregonians ages 25 to 64 that participated in the labor force and held jobs increased along with educational attainment. Employed Oregonians with more education were also more likely to work in higher-wage industries. Larger shares of the Oregon’s Hispanic or Latino prime working age population had not earned a high school diploma. Relatedly, Hispanic and Latino workers were more concentrated in lower-paying industries. Additional data about the demographic and educational attainment characteristics of workers can be found on the IPUMS USA website, https://usa.ipums.org/usa/.

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