Hispanic population supporting Milwaukee region workforce

Milwaukee’s Hispanic population has been growing steadily over the past two decades, supporting the region’s workforce and balancing out population losses in other demographics.

Still, Hispanics are largely underrepresented in higher-paying occupations, according to the latest report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The report, titled “Upward Mobility,” shows the four-county Milwaukee area has gained nearly 76,000 Hispanic residents between 2000 and 2017, accounting for all of the region’s net employment growth during that time.

Over the same timeframe, the region lost nearly 69,000 white residents, while other groups increased moderately. As noted by WPF, the region’s overall population would have largely stayed flat without the boost from the growing Hispanic presence.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, WPF has created a chart comparing the concentration of Hispanic workers to median annual wages. For all the occupations listed on the chart, the concentration of Hispanic workers is higher in jobs that tend to earn less.

For example, farming, fishing and forestry jobs have the highest concentration of Hispanic workers, and the median annual wage for these jobs is between $30,000 and $40,000.

The concentration of Hispanics is much lower in jobs with higher median annual wages. That means Hispanics are underrepresented in management, architecture and engineering, legal, computer science and other high-wage jobs.

In general, WPF says Hispanics are most underrepresented in jobs with the highest wages in the Milwaukee metro area. And Hispanics are also underrepresented as employers.

The report shows metro Milwaukee’s Hispanic population is employed at a similar rate to the area’s white and Asian populations, despite Hispanics having a slightly higher rate of unemployment. WPF chalks up that difference to a higher labor force participation rate for Hispanic workers.

It’s also noted that 70.1 percent of Hispanics aged 16 and older are either working or looking for a job, which is more than any other racial or ethnic group.

The report includes a section on education for young Hispanics in the Milwaukee area. It shows Hispanics are less likely than their peers to earn a bachelor’s or advanced degree, which are often required for jobs at the higher end of the wage scale.

Still, the share of Hispanic adults in metro Milwaukee with at least a high school diploma increased from 59.7 percent in 2007 to 71.4 percent in 2017. And the number of Hispanics with at least a bachelor’s degree also went up during that period.

“Achievement gaps remain on both measures, but progress is being made,” report authors said.

See the full report: http://wispolicyforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/UpwardMobility_FullReport.pdf