December 2022

IZA DP No. 15802: Hispanic Americans in the Labor Market: Patterns over Time and across Generations

forthcoming in: Journal of Economic Perspectives

This article reviews evidence on the labor market performance of Hispanics in the United States, with a particular focus on the US-born segment of this population. After discussing critical issues that arise in the US data sources commonly used to study Hispanics, we document how Hispanics currently compare with other Americans in terms of education, earnings, and labor supply, and then we discuss long-term trends in these outcomes. Relative to non-Hispanic Whites, US-born Hispanics from most national origin groups possess sizeable deficits in earnings, which in large part reflect corresponding educational deficits. Over time, rates of high school completion by US-born Hispanics have almost converged to those of non-Hispanic Whites, but the large Hispanic deficits in college completion have instead widened. Finally, from the perspective of immigrant generations, Hispanics experience substantial improvements in education and earnings between first-generation immigrants and the second-generation consisting of the US-born children of immigrants. Continued progress beyond the second generation is obscured by measurement issues arising from high rates of Hispanic intermarriage and the fact that later-generation descendants of Hispanic immigrants often do not self-identify as Hispanic when they come from families with mixed ethnic origins.