Latinx Youth: a changing world of work

CSS on Latino USA - Warehouse World

Lazar TreschanIrene Lew

With support from the DeutscheBank Americas Foundation (DBAF), CSS is producing research on issues facing Latinx youth to inform stories for Latino USA, National Public Radio’s only English-language national Latinx news and cultural weekly radio program. Using research conducted by CSS, Latino USA produced and reported on an issue related to how young Latinos are faring in the labor market. The episode released today explores the growing world of warehouses and the jobs they offer. The story illustrates a range of questions that CSS has identified in its research about recent employment trends facing young Latinxs in the United States.  

Labor Market Changes for Latinx Workers

At the broadest level, employment rates for young people have largely returned to their normal, pre-recession levels, after drastic spikes in joblessness that were prominently felt by young Latinxs.

Source: CSS analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau

Yet underlying these broader trends are several unique changes in the labor market. Among the most notable trends are an increase in the share of young Latina women, who are working at much higher rates than they were pre-recession, and a decline in labor force participation among young Latino males, whose employment levels have not recovered from the recession.  

Source: CSS analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau

Another important trend within these employment rates is the change in the types of job held by young Latinxs, a shift that may be connected to the gender dynamics noted above. We have seen a clear decline in blue collar jobs, in fields such as manufacturing, jobs that were predominantly held by males. These positions traditionally offered good wages and benefits and allowed for a middle class livelihood even for individuals without high levels of education. As the below chart shows, these jobs have largely been replaced by positions in retail trade; education, health, or social services (which tend to require more education); or low-paying service jobs.

Source: CSS analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau

Within these low-paying services, jobs in warehouses continue to grow, and Latinxs make up the largest shares of the individuals filling these positions—41 percent of 18-34 year olds in warehouses are of Latinx backgrounds.1 One question is about the extent to which these jobs will evolve, and if they will pay the decent wages and benefits of blue collar occupations, or the lower wages and benefits of retail and other services. For example, Amazon recently announced that it would increase the pay of its own warehouse workers to $15 per hour nationwide. However, as this episode of Latino USA notes, the company also uses many temp firms to provide warehouse workers, who are paid at much lower levels.  


Career and Technical Education: a way forward for many Latinx students

The Latino USA story also talks about how Patterson High School, located in the same California community as the Amazon warehouse in question, is seeking to provide students with coursework that would allow them to obtain and succeed in jobs at the growing number of warehouses in the area. The school is able to do so through specific funding it receives for Career and Technical Education (CTE). CTE programs have received significant attention in recent years as a way to increase student engagement during high school; provide skills that can be used to obtain a job at graduation; and also to offer students a clearer understanding of the postsecondary education and training they might need to obtain even higher-level jobs.

CSS has conducted research on CTE high schools in New York City and found that they provide notable benefits to students, with the greatest gains among black and Latino males. Not only were those students much more likely to graduate high school if they attended a CTE school, but many Latinx students, specifically, were even more likely to meet college readiness benchmarks. One way to interpret these findings is that the unique experiences that CTE programming offers—work-based, experiential learning—not only keeps these students on track in high school, but gives them a tangible understanding about how specific college programs can help them meet different career goals.

Source: CSS analysis of NYC Dept of Education data

Source: CSS analysis of NYC Dept of Education data

The benefits that CTE programs provide young people suggest additional possibilities about how to improve K-12 educational programming. Work-based learning activities, such as internships, community service projects, and career exploration programs, may be able to provide some of the experiences of CTE programs, which may always be limited given the requirements necessary to develop them, to a broader population. As an outgrowth of our CTE-related research and advocacy, CSS has proposed the institution of universal summer internship programs for high school students.  

Summer jobs have already been shown to decrease “summer melt,” the decline in academic skills that takes place when school is out. Students who participate in summer employment perform better once they return to school in the fall, and attend at higher rates than similar students who do not. And it’s also possible that summer jobs might have an effect on improving outcomes of students after high school. As Latino USA illustrated in its first collaboration with CSS, young Latinxs face high rates of non-completion in college, and there is reason to believe some of this is related to suboptimal choices about college. Students who have employment experiences before college might be able to make more informed choices about their postsecondary education, leading to better outcomes down the road.

This is the second episode of a three-part series from Latino USA focused on the issues faced by Latinx young adults in the U.S.A. The first episode, which covered the challenges facing young Latinxs pursuing college education, can be found here. CSS is grateful to the DeutscheBank Americas Foundation for its support of this work, and to Latino USA for its partnership. You can learn more about CSS’ Youth Policy work here



1 CSS analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey, United States Census Bureau

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