October 7, 2009

The Changing Pathways of Hispanic Youths Into Adulthood

V. Rising Labor Force Participation

The rise in Hispanic youths’ pursuit of school since 1970 has not come at the expense of work effort or labor force participation. A growing share of Hispanic youths are either working or looking for work (Figure 10). In 1970, 52% of Hispanic youths were in the labor force. By 2007, the labor force participation rate of young Hispanics increased to 62%. Again, much of this increase in labor force participation reflects strong growth among Hispanic females rather than males.

For young Hispanic men, the pathway of formal schooling has modestly declined (Figure 5). More than 90% of young Hispanic men continue to be engaged in either school or the work world (Figure 3) because a modestly rising share of young Hispanic men are participating in the labor force (Figure 11). In 2007, 68% of young Hispanic males were in the labor force, up from 65% in 1970.

Though relatively few young foreign-born Hispanic males are pursuing schooling, many in this population group are working or looking for work. In 2007, 79% of young foreign-born Hispanic males were in the labor force, the highest rate of labor force participation of any of the race-gender-nativity groups considered.

As with young white and black males, labor force participation of native-born Hispanic males has declined in recent years. It peaked at 68% for native-born Hispanic males in 1980 and stood at 61% by 2007. The decline in labor force participation was offset, however, by increased school or college enrollment such that the aggregate share of native-born Hispanic males on skill-building pathways remained unchanged at about 90% (Figure 3).

Accompanying the large rise in the school enrollment rate of young Hispanic women has been a large rise in their labor force participation since 1970 (Figure 12). As with white and black females, the labor force participation rate of young Hispanic women increased from 40% in 1970 to 54% in 2007. In spite of the increase, though, Hispanic females have the lowest rate of labor force participation of any of the race-gender groups examined. In 2007, the labor force participation rate of young black males was 56%.