17. Hispanic Workers in Construction Occupations
Hispanic (see Glossary) workers play a large role in the construction industry (see page 16), particularly among production (blue-collar) occupations (see page 11). In 2015, about 88% of Hispanic workers had jobs in production occupations, compared to 67% of non-Hispanic workers (chart 17a). Hispanic workers are less likely to work in a managerial or professional position than non-Hispanic workers. Only 8% of Hispanic workers were employed in managerial or professional occupations in 2015, while 25% of non-Hispanic workers were in such occupations that year.
When examining detailed occupation categories, about 27% of Hispanic workers were employed as construction laborers (chart 17b) compared to 16% of all construction workers (see page 11). Within some construction occupations, more than half of the workers were of Hispanic origin; this includes drywall installation (61.2%), roofing (54.4%), and painting (51.7%; chart 17c).
Many Hispanic workers in construction are new immigrants. In 2015, nearly half (48%) of Hispanic construction workers reported entering the U.S. after 2000. About 40% of Hispanic immigrant workers reported that they cannot speak English very well, and 21% reported they cannot speak English at all.1 However, the percentage in each of the categories was lower than in 2010 (see the fifth edition of the Chart Book, page 18), corresponding to a decrease in immigration after the recession (see page 15).2
Hispanic construction workers are less likely to be unionized. In 2015, only 8.2% of Hispanic workers in construction were union members, compared to 16.6% among non-Hispanic construction workers (chart 17d). Since union members tend to have higher wages and benefits, non-unionized Hispanic workers were more likely to report lower wages and less likely to have health insurance, pensions, and other benefits than their unionized counterparts (see pages 24, 26–27).
Hispanic women are underrepresented in the construction workforce. In 2015, less than 5% of Hispanic construction workers were women,3 compared to 9% of all construction workers (see page 19). In addition, Hispanic construction workers were less likely to hold government jobs than non-Hispanic workers (1.5% versus 4.8%).3
In general, Hispanic construction workers are also younger (see page 14), less educated (see page 29), receive less training (see page 30), earn lower wages (see page 24), and work in smaller construction companies.4 Many of these factors make Hispanic workers more vulnerable to work-related injuries and illnesses.4
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Hispanic refers to any individual whose origin is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, Chicano, or other Latin American. Hispanics can be any race (see racial minorities in the Glossary and page 19). The term Latino is used in place of Hispanic in many publications. However, to maintain consistency, Hispanic is used throughout this chart book, as it is used by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Production workers – In this chart book, same as blue-collar workers. From the Current Population Survey: all workers, except managerial, professional (architects, accountants, lawyers, etc.), and administrative support staff. Production workers can be either wage-and-salary or self-employed workers.
1. Numbers were estimated from the Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
2. Kochhar R. 2014. Latino Jobs Growth Driven by U.S. Born: Immigrants No Longer the Majority of Hispanic Workers. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2014/06/19/latino-jobs-growth-driven-by-u-s-born/ (Accessed November 2016).
3. Numbers were estimated from the American Community Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
4. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 2015. Overlapping Vulnerabilities: The Occupational Health and Safety of Young Immigrant Workers in Small Construction Firms. http://www.asse.org/assets/1/7/NIOSHreport_FinalDraft.pdf (Accessed November 2016).
All charts – Total of 2.8 million Hispanic construction workers (all types of employment) in 2015 (see page 16).
Charts 17a and 17b – Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
Charts 17b and 17c – Data are averaged over three years to attain statistically valid numbers. Concrete workers include cement masons, cement finishers, and terrazzo workers (see page 11).
Charts 17a and 17d – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Charts 17b and 17c – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2013-2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.