Report: Wages lag among region’s fast-growing Hispanic workforce

Under-represented in occupations that earn $60,000 or more

Metro Milwaukee’s Hispanic population has driven the region’s net population growth over the past two decades, but Hispanic workers are underrepresented in higher-wage occupations, according to a new Wisconsin Policy Forum report.

Griselda Aldrete, president of Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.
(Lila Aryan Photography)

According to the report, which was released by the nonpartisan policy forum and commissioned by Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, the number of Hispanic workers is increasing in almost every occupation in the metro area, including those that are losing jobs overall.

Yet, Hispanic workers are employed at less than half the rate of the overall workforce in occupations paying a median wage of at least $60,000, such as management, business and financial operations, health care practitioner and computer and mathematical occupations. Hispanics are also underrepresented as business owners, the report said.

And the report’s findings raise doubts that Hispanic representation in the region’s high-wage occupations will increase significantly in the near future.

“This is problematic given that the Hispanic population continues to fuel growth in metro Milwaukee and that its success is critical to the region’s long-term economic destiny,” the report said. “Civic and educational leaders and policymakers are working to prepare metro Milwaukee’s workforce for the increasingly knowledge-based 21st century economy. To do so effectively, those efforts must ensure that the region’s fastest-growing demographic — the Hispanic population — is achieving at the same rate or better than the overall population. We hope this research will inform area leaders as they deliberate education and workforce development strategies to achieve that objective.”

Since 2000, the Hispanic population has grown by more than 75,000 in the Milwaukee metro area (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties), accounting for all of the region’s net growth, according to the report. The non-Hispanic white population has declined by 68,000 during that same period.

While educational attainment is increasing, the percentage of Hispanic adults with college degrees remains relatively low, the WPF report said. Metro Milwaukee’s Hispanic adults with at least a high school diploma (or equivalent) increased from 60 percent to 71 percent between 2007 and 2017. The share with at least a bachelor’s degree increased modestly by four percentage points, but is still less than half the rate among the region’s adult population overall.

Milwaukee Public Schools’ 8,500 Hispanic graduates from the years 2007 to 2017 have enrolled in college at a lower rate than African American, Asian and white students, and have earned a bachelor’s or advanced degree at a rate of 46 percent, compared to 61 percent among all groups.

Other key findings from the report:

  • At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which serves the highest number of Hispanic students in the region, the 6-year graduation among Hispanic students in 2017 was 28 percent, compared with 41 percent among students overall. However, its 4-year graduation rate for Hispanic students increased from 7.2 percent for its 2010 cohort of freshmen to 11.3 percent for its 2013 cohort. UWM leaders have acknowledged the disparity and have initiated new efforts to address it, according to the report.
  • Seventy percent of Hispanics, ages 16 and above, in metro Milwaukee are participating in the labor force, which is higher than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • Hispanics accounted for 10.6 percent of the metro area’s population in 2016 but owned just 3.4 percent of the area’s businesses with paid employees.
  • More Hispanic MPS graduates have completed college programs in health care-related fields than any other occupational category. A majority of Hispanic students (65 percent) who have completed college programs in health care fields have earned technical diplomas and certificates, rather than associate degrees or higher.

The report’s release follows the launch in January of a new effort, called Hispanic Collaborative, to improve economic opportunities and representation among Latinos in the Milwaukee region.

That group, which includes more than 150 organizations and individuals, is working to find strategies to move Hispanics to higher-paying and higher-skilled positions, increase the number of Hispanic-owned businesses and increase civic participation through voting, public service and advocacy.

Metro Milwaukee’s Hispanic population has driven the region’s net population growth over the past two decades, but Hispanic workers are underrepresented in higher-wage occupations, according to a new Wisconsin Policy Forum report.

Griselda Aldrete, president of Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.
(Lila Aryan Photography)

According to the report, which was released by the nonpartisan policy forum and commissioned by Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, the number of Hispanic workers is increasing in almost every occupation in the metro area, including those that are losing jobs overall.

Yet, Hispanic workers are employed at less than half the rate of the overall workforce in occupations paying a median wage of at least $60,000, such as management, business and financial operations, health care practitioner and computer and mathematical occupations. Hispanics are also underrepresented as business owners, the report said.

And the report’s findings raise doubts that Hispanic representation in the region’s high-wage occupations will increase significantly in the near future.

“This is problematic given that the Hispanic population continues to fuel growth in metro Milwaukee and that its success is critical to the region’s long-term economic destiny,” the report said. “Civic and educational leaders and policymakers are working to prepare metro Milwaukee’s workforce for the increasingly knowledge-based 21st century economy. To do so effectively, those efforts must ensure that the region’s fastest-growing demographic — the Hispanic population — is achieving at the same rate or better than the overall population. We hope this research will inform area leaders as they deliberate education and workforce development strategies to achieve that objective.”

Since 2000, the Hispanic population has grown by more than 75,000 in the Milwaukee metro area (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties), accounting for all of the region’s net growth, according to the report. The non-Hispanic white population has declined by 68,000 during that same period.

While educational attainment is increasing, the percentage of Hispanic adults with college degrees remains relatively low, the WPF report said. Metro Milwaukee’s Hispanic adults with at least a high school diploma (or equivalent) increased from 60 percent to 71 percent between 2007 and 2017. The share with at least a bachelor’s degree increased modestly by four percentage points, but is still less than half the rate among the region’s adult population overall.

Milwaukee Public Schools’ 8,500 Hispanic graduates from the years 2007 to 2017 have enrolled in college at a lower rate than African American, Asian and white students, and have earned a bachelor’s or advanced degree at a rate of 46 percent, compared to 61 percent among all groups.

Other key findings from the report:

  • At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which serves the highest number of Hispanic students in the region, the 6-year graduation among Hispanic students in 2017 was 28 percent, compared with 41 percent among students overall. However, its 4-year graduation rate for Hispanic students increased from 7.2 percent for its 2010 cohort of freshmen to 11.3 percent for its 2013 cohort. UWM leaders have acknowledged the disparity and have initiated new efforts to address it, according to the report.
  • Seventy percent of Hispanics, ages 16 and above, in metro Milwaukee are participating in the labor force, which is higher than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • Hispanics accounted for 10.6 percent of the metro area’s population in 2016 but owned just 3.4 percent of the area’s businesses with paid employees.
  • More Hispanic MPS graduates have completed college programs in health care-related fields than any other occupational category. A majority of Hispanic students (65 percent) who have completed college programs in health care fields have earned technical diplomas and certificates, rather than associate degrees or higher.

The report’s release follows the launch in January of a new effort, called Hispanic Collaborative, to improve economic opportunities and representation among Latinos in the Milwaukee region.

That group, which includes more than 150 organizations and individuals, is working to find strategies to move Hispanics to higher-paying and higher-skilled positions, increase the number of Hispanic-owned businesses and increase civic participation through voting, public service and advocacy.

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