Immigrants And Minorities Are Powering America’s Workforce Growth

Just as our population is changing rapidly, so is our workforce — and the workforce that will generate our country’s future wealth and provide for the retirement of the baby boomers is looking more and more diverse both in terms of both national origin and race.

One fact not widely appreciated about our changing workforce is the diversity explosion that arrived in the 2000’s and separates that decade and, in all likelihood, the current and future decades from the 1990’s. The rich data in the just-released CAP report, “The Contributions of Immigrants and Their Children to the American Workforce and Jobs of the Future” illustrate the sharpness of the break between the 1990’s and later decades:

In the 90’s, 58 percent of net workforce growth came from native born Americans who were not children of immigrants (that is, second generation or later Americans). In the 2000’s, that figure dropped to just half its previous level (29 percent). In this decade, projections indicate the figure will erode only slightly to 28 percent, but that will be followed by another sharp drop to just 3 percent in the 2020’s. In that decade, essentially all (97 percent) of workforce growth will come from immigrants and their children.


Looking at these changes with a race-ethnic lens reveals other significant shifts. In the 90’s, 43 percent of net workforce growth came from non-Hispanic whites. In the 2000’s, all of workforce growth came from minorities. The white contribution in the 2010’s will take a tiny bump upward to 4 percent before plummeting to -20 percent in the 2020’s. The latter figure means that minorities will account for 120 percent of growth in that decade; Latinos alone will account for 78 percent of growth:

Starting in the 90’s, we rapidly moved into an entirely new world of workforce growth, a transition that will only deepen as the 21st century unfolds.