Mark Dolliver’s Takes: A Varied Bunch

The stereotype of the immigrant worker in the U.S. is of some guy toiling in a restaurant kitchen. The reality is more complex, as a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes evident. And that’s inevitable, given the sheer number of workers here who were born elsewhere. The report says the rising number of foreign-born workers yielded “more than half of the total labor-force increase in 2006.” Last year, such workers accounted for 15.3 percent of the civilian labor force age 16 and up, vs. 14.8 percent the prior year. (The report’s totals include legal residents as well as those in the U.S. illegally.) In an ethnic breakdown of the 2006 data, about 50 percent of foreign-born workers were Hispanic and 22 percent were Asian. One-fifth were non-Hispanic whites. Foreign-born workers were more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to lack a high school diploma (28 percent vs. 6 percent), but there was little difference in the proportion who have a bachelor’s degree or higher (31 percent vs. 33 percent). The chart below gives a picture of how foreign-born and native-born workers are distributed among various broad occupational categories.