Chicago's Latino Workers Hit A 'Blue-Collar Ceiling' In Job Earnings: Report


A study released Thursday shows that many Chicago area Latinos are facing a "blue-collar ceiling" and are likely to be stuck in low-paying jobs for the rest of their lives due to persistent educational gaps.

The report, by the New Journalism on Latino Children project through DePaul University, was based on 2010 census data and claims that though the Chicago area has seen a boom in its Latino population over the past decade, that population could face dwindling job prospects unless they receive better education and more job skills than their parents' generation, the Chicago Tribune reports.

"These kids need special attention," said John Koval, the author of the report and a senior research fellow at DePaul University, according to the Tribune. "They're coming from communities where going on to college, even graduating from high school, is not commonplace. … We're not talking about social justice, social work. We're talking about a pragmatic need in our country. These kids need to be educated and well-trained because this economy needs them so badly."

Crain's Chicago Business reports that, according to the report, about 40 percent of the U.S. born Mexican-Americans working in the Chicago area hold jobs in either food service, construction or manufacturing and that number increases to about half when it comes to Mexican immigrants living in Cook County and the five counties that surround it.

As a result, the median annual income for Chicagoans of Mexican descent lags behind other demographics. For example, as Crain's reports, the median annual income for Mexican-born workers living in Chicago is $28,000, while U.S. born workers of Mexican descent earn a median income of $47,000. Non-Hispanic white males take home a median household income of $65,000.

Bruce Fuller, a University of California professor who also worked on the project, said the gaps in both earnings and education levels take their roots early, before Latino children begin kindergarten, according to Catalyst Chicago.

"Chicago’s economic competitiveness will continue to decline until young workers display more agile cognitive and social skills," Fuller said. "We know quality education early on is a key piece of the puzzle."

The report based its findings on Chicago workers of Mexican descent because they represent 80 percent of the metropolitan area's Latino workers. Latinos comprise 22 percent of the Chicago area's population as of the 2010 Census, a vast increase from a decade before -- in 2000, only 11 percent of the city's population was Latino.

The findings echo another study released last month by the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies. The study found that Latino households earn two-thirds the median income of Caucasian households and has dropped 13 percent between 1999 and 2008, compared with an 8 percent decrease among Caucasian households.

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