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Study shows wages rising for foreign-born Latino workers

August 22, 2007|The Associated Press

The proportion of foreign-born Latinos at the lowest end of the wage scale fell by 6 percentage points over the decade ending in 2005, the Pew Hispanic Center reported Tuesday.

In 2005, foreign-born Latino workers accounted for 36% of workers earning less than $8.50 an hour compared with 42% in 1995, according to the center's analysis of U.S. Census data.

In the same period, the portion of foreign-born Latinos earning from $8.50 an hour to $16.20 in 2005 grew by about 5 percentage points.

Expressed in 2005 dollars, low-wage workers in 1995 earned less than $7.69 an hour and middle-wage workers earned as much as $15.38 an hour in 1995 and $16.20 in 2005.

The actual number of Latinos on the lowest end of the wage scale grew by 1.2 million workers, but that was about 600,000 fewer than would be expected based on the growth of the foreign-born Latino population, said Rakesh Kochar, the center's associate director for research.

Half of newly arrived Latino immigrant workers were among the lowest wage earners in 2005, down from 64% in 1995.

New arrivals also were older, better educated and more likely to be employed in construction than agriculture, the report said.

"Construction has definitely been beneficial," Kochar said.

Legal and illegal workers were considered for the study but researchers did not differentiate between them in their analysis. The Census does not ask immigration status.

The study also did not analyze the effect of illegal workers on the wage earnings of U.S. workers.

The center also found:

A third of foreign-born Asian workers were in the highest wage group, earning more than $24.03 an hour in 2005, up from a fourth.

The share of Mexican-born workers in the lowest wage class fell from 48% in 1995 to 40% in 2005.

There was no significant change for native-born African Americans or native-born Latinos, with half of each group in the lower- and lower-middle-wage groups in 2005 and 1995.

Native-born non-Latino whites were more likely to be high-wage earners. Twenty-three percent or 18.5 million were in the high-wage group in 2005, higher than expected considering the slower population increase among whites.

"There seems to be room for everybody," Kochar said, noting the progress among immigrant workers and no significant drops among other groups of workers.

Steve Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, agreed the progress was is good news. But Camarota questioned whether the U.S. needs a lot of low-income wage earners.

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