A new report from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) puts the spotlight on five U.S. metropolitan areas where green economies and the Latino work force meet: Knoxville, Tenn.; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif.
NCLR’s report, Bright Green: Five Metropolitan Areas Where the Latino Workforce and the Clean Economy Overlap, compares the education and occupation profiles of Latinos and green jobs and stresses that the benefits of emerging green industries extend beyond a healthier environment. In general, green jobs pay higher wages than many traditional Hispanic occupations and are more accessible to workers without a 4-year college degree.
“The growth of the Latino workforce has important implications for another major trend that promises to define the future of the American economy: the intentional move to environmental sustainability,” the report states. “The fundamental concept of ‘green jobs’ – broadly defined as occupations that contribute to efforts to improve the environment – has permeated the public discourse as a way of describing how policy decisions about energy and the environment affect the U.S. labor market.”
Catherine Singley, senior policy analyst for the Economic and Employment Policy Project at NCLR, said the growth of the Latino work force, combined with the drive toward sustainability, will definite the future of the American economy. “The challenge is how to align the fastest-growing segment of the labor force with the fastest-growing sectors of the economy. Investing in education and training for Latino workers should be part of any strategy to advance the green economy,” she said.
The report, which includes profiles of each of the five green metro areas, states that Latino workers particularly are represented in “green” construction and extraction jobs in McAllen, Texas; transportation, material moving and production jobs in Los Angeles and Little Rock, Ark.; and more. Additionally, Hispanic workers are overrepresented in clean economy jobs not only where Latinos make up the majority of working-age adults, such as in McAllen, Texas, but also in areas like Little Rock, Ark., where Hipsanics only make up 5 percent of the adult working population.
The report found that these “green” occupations pay higher median wages than traditional Latino occupations. Latino workers, however, “tend to be underrepresented in the highest-paying green jobs, even in metro areas where the Hispanic occupation profile closely mirrors that of the clean economy.”
“Policymakers interested in advancing America’s policies to improve environmental quality, reduce pollution, and shift to cleaner sources of energy should take note of the human capital needs of Latino workers,” the report stated. “Improving opportunities for Latinos to work in the clean economy would also improve their wages and future employment prospects as green jobs continue to grow.”
NCLR’s analysis relied on Census figures and the Clean Economy Database developed by the Brookings Institution.