August 10, 2006

Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

IV. Charting Native-Born Employment: 1990-2000

The record-setting economic expansion of the 1990s improved the employment prospects of all workers. The period also experienced a surge in the foreign-born workforce, especially between 1995 and 2000. Against that backdrop, the analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population between 1990 and 2000 and the employment outcomes of native-born workers in 2000 revealed no consistent pattern across the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Native-born workers did well in some states where the foreign-born population growth was above average and well in others where the foreign-born population growth was below average. They did not do well in some states where the growth in the foreign-born population was above average and also not well in others where the growth was below average. This irregular pattern is summarized in Table 4, which shows employment rates and changes in the foreign-born population in four groups of states (see Figure 1 below and Table A1 in Appendix A for data on individual states).

A Negative Correlation with the Foreign-Born Workforce

Between 1990 and 2000, there were 24 states in which the increase of foreignborn workers possibly had a negative impact on the employment of native-born workers. This means that above-average growth in the foreign-born population was associated with below-average employment rates for native-born workers or, conversely, below-average growth in the foreign population was associated with above-average employment rates for native-born workers. In Table 4, those states are grouped in the lower-right (FB +, NB ─) and upper-left (FB ─, NB +) quadrants. Together, the states represented 38% of the population of native-born workers.

In eight of those states, the average growth of the foreign-born population was 162%, well above the average of 90% for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The employment rate for native-born workers in 2000 was 62%, below the national average of 65%. Notably, this was the smallest of the four groups and together these states represented about 15% of the native-born workforce 16 and older in 2000.

There were 16 other states whose experiences between 1990 and 2000 were consistent with a negative correlation. In those states, the average growth of the foreign-born population was below the overall average (48%) and the employment rate for native-born workers was above average (68%).

A Positive Correlation with the Foreign-Born Workforce

There was a possible positive correlation between the growth of the foreign-born population and the employment rate of native-born workers in 26 states and in the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2000. That suggests that changes in the foreign-born population may not have had a harmful impact on outcomes for native-born workers. Above-average growth in the foreign-born population was associated with above-average employment rates for native-born workers or, conversely, below-average growth in the foreign population was associated with below-average employment rates for native-born workers. In Table 4, these states are grouped in the upper-right (FB +, NB +) and lower-left (FB ─, NB ─) quadrants. Together, they represented 62% of the population of native-born workers.

In 14 of those states, the growth of the foreign-born population was above average (137%) and the employment rate for native-born workers was also above average (68%). In 12 states and the District of Columbia, the growth of the foreign-born population was below average (46%) and the employment rate for native-born workers was also below average (61%).

Charting Individual States, 1990-2000

The lack of a relationship between the growth in the foreign-born population and outcomes for native-born workers comes into sharper focus when individual states are plotted on a chart that maps the change in the foreign-born population from 1990 to 2000 and the native-born employment rate in each state in 2000 (Figure 1). This mapping produces four distinct quadrants that correspond with the four groups of states presented in Tables 3 and 4 above.

The distribution of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in Figure 1 reveals a wide dispersion across the four quadrants. The absence of a discernible pattern clearly shows that foreign-born population growth, whether above or below average, was not related to lower- or higher-than-average employment rates for native-born workers.

The center point of the chart in Figure 1 is the intersection of two key indicators: the simple average of the growth in the foreign-born population between 1990 and 2000 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (90%) and the simple average of the employment rate for native-born workers in 2000 (65.3%). Eight states in 2000 had above-average growth in the foreign-born population (FB +) and below-average employment rates for native-born workers (NB ─). Those states, located in the lower-right quadrant, include North Carolina, Arizona and Arkansas. North Carolina and Arizona had the highest employment rate in this grouping (65% and 63.3%, respectively) and Arkansas the lowest (59%).

In North Carolina, the foreign-born population increased by 278% between 1990 and 2000, the highest among all states and more than three times the average across all states (90%). In Arizona, the foreign-born population increased by 141% between 1990 and 2000. In Arkansas, the foreign-born population increased by 193%. The other states in this group are South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Alabama.

The upper-left quadrant of Figure 1 includes 16 states that had below-average growth in the foreign-born population (FB ─) between 1990 and 2000 and above-average employment rates for native-born workers in 2000 (NB +). In this group, the highest employment rate for native-born workers was in New Hampshire, where the foreign-born population increased by only 25%. Other states in this quadrant are South Dakota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, Missouri, Maryland, Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Montana and Massachusetts. The growth of the foreign-born population between 1990 and 2000 ranged from -1 % in Maine to 89% in Virginia.

The experiences of the 24 states in the lower-right (FB +, NB ─) and upper-left (FB ─, NB+) quadrants indicate that the growth in the foreign-born workforce may have had a harmful impact on native-born workers. However, the opposite is true for the remaining 26 states and the District of Columbia.

The upper-right quadrant of Figure 1 represents states with above-average growth in the foreign-born population (FB +) and above-average employment rates for native-born workers (NB +). Those states include Minnesota and Nebraska, which had the highest employment rates for native-born workers in 2000 (73.1% and 70.8% respectively). The growth in the foreign-born population in these two states between 1990 and 2000 was 120% and 168%, respectively. The other states in this group include Colorado, Iowa, Utah, Kansas, Georgia, Delaware, Nevada, Idaho, Indiana, Oregon, Texas and Washington. The growth of the foreign-born population in these states ranged from a low of 92% in Washington to a high of 245% in Georgia.

The lower-left quadrant in Figure 1 captures states with below-average growth in the foreign-born population (FB ─) and below-average employment rates for native-born workers (NB ─). That group of 12 states and the District of Columbia includes several traditional migrant settlement states such as California, New York, New Jersey and Florida. The employment rate for native-born workers ranged from 64.5% in Rhode Island, which matched the average across all states, to 53.9% in West Virginia, which ranked last among all states and the District of Columbia. Also in this category are Ohio, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Mississippi and Louisiana. The growth of the foreign-born population among these states ranged from a low of 30% in West Virginia to a high of 89% in New Mexico.

In conclusion, the scattering of the 50 states and the District of Columbia across the four quadrants in Figure 1 shows that there was no relationship between the growth of the foreign-born population between 1990 and 2000 and the employment rates for native-born workers 16 and older in 2000 (see Table A1 in Appendix A for data on all states). The same can be said about the labor force participation rate and the unemployment rate for the native born in 2000 (see Figures A1 and A2 in Appendix A).