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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-Born Workers Technical Note

Technical Note

   The estimates in this release are based on annual average data from
the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS, which is conducted by
the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is a
monthly survey of about 60,000 households that provides information on
the labor force status, demographics, and other characteristics of the
nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. In
response to the increased demand for statistical information about the
foreign born, questions on nativity, citizenship, year of entry into
the United States, and the parental nativity of respondents were added
to the CPS beginning in January 1994. Prior to 1994, the primary
sources of data on the foreign born were the decennial census, two CPS
supplements (conducted in April 1983 and November 1989), and, to some
extent, information collected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization

   The foreign- and native-born data for 2010 are not strictly
comparable with data for 2009 and earlier years because of the
introduction in January 2010 of revised population controls used in
the CPS. The effect of the revised population controls on the foreign-
and native-born estimates is unknown. However, the effect of the new
controls on the monthly CPS estimates was to decrease the December
2009 employment level by 243,000 and the unemployment level by 5,000.
The new population controls had a negligible impact on unemployment
rates and other percentage estimates. More detailed information on the
population adjustments and their effect on national labor force
estimates are available at

   Information in this release will be made available to sensory
impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200,
Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

Reliability of the estimates

   Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and
nonsampling error. When a sample, rather than the entire population,
is surveyed, there is a chance that the sample estimates may differ
from the "true" population values they represent. The exact difference,
or sampling error, varies depending upon the particular sample selected,
and this variability is measured by the standard error of the estimate.
There is about a 90-percent chance, or level of confidence, that an
estimate based on a sample will differ by no more than 1.6 standard
errors from the "true" population value because of sampling error. BLS
analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence.

   The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error. Nonsampling
error can occur for many reasons, including the failure to sample a
segment of the population, inability to obtain information for all
respondents in the sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents
to provide correct information, and errors made in the collection or
processing of the data. For a full discussion of the reliability of
data from the CPS and information on estimating standard errors, see
the Household Data section of the "Explanatory Notes and Estimates of
Error" from Employment and Earnings Online at

Concepts and definitions

   Foreign born. The foreign born are persons residing in the United
States who were not U.S. citizens at birth. That is, they were born
outside the United States or one of its outlying areas such as Puerto
Rico or Guam, to parents neither whom was a U.S. citizen. The foreign-
born population includes legally-admitted immigrants, refugees,
temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and
undocumented immigrants. The survey data, however, do not separately
identify the number of persons in these categories.

   Native born. The native born are persons born in the United States
or one of its outlying areas such as Puerto Rico or Guam or who were born
abroad of at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen.

    Race and ethnicity groups. In this release, the data are presented
for non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and Asians and for persons of Hispanic
or Latino ethnicity. These four groups are mutually exclusive but not
exhaustive. Other race groups (including persons who selected more than
one race category) are included in the overall totals but are not shown
separately because the number of survey respondents is too small develop
statistically reliable estimates. The presentation of the data on race
and ethnicity in this release differs from that which appears in most
analyses of CPS labor force data because persons of Hispanic or Latino
ethnicity are separated from the race groups. Because persons of Hispanic
or Latino ethnicity can be of any race, they are usually included in the
race groups as well as shown separately in the Hispanic Latino ethnicity
group. The reason for the difference in the data presentation in this
release is because about half of the foreign born are of Hispanic or
Latino ethnicity and they have somewhat different labor force
characteristics than the non-Hispanic foreign born.

   Employed. Employed persons are (a) all those who, during the survey
reference week, did any work at all as paid employees, worked in their
own business, profession, or on their own farm, or who worked 15 hours
or more as unpaid workers in a family-operated enterprise; and (b) all
those who did not work but had jobs or businesses from which they were
temporarily absent due to illness, bad weather, vacation, childcare
problems, labor disputes, or personal reasons, whether or not they
were paid for the time off and whether not they were seeking other

   Unemployed. The unemployed are persons who had no employment during
the reference week, were available for work at that time, except for
temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment
sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.
Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had
been laid off need not be looking for work to be classified as

   Civilian labor force. The civilian labor force comprises all
persons classified as employed or unemployed.

   Unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is the number unemployed
as a percent of the civilian labor force.

   Labor force participation rate. The labor force participation rate
is the labor force as a percent of the population.

   Usual weekly earnings. Data represent earnings before taxes and
other deductions and include any overtime pay, commissions, or tips
usually received (at the main job in the case of multiple jobholders).
Earnings reported on a basis other than weekly are converted to a
weekly equivalent.

   Median earnings. The median is the amount which divides a given
earnings distribution into two equal groups, one having earnings above
the median and the other having earnings below the median.

Table of Contents

Last Modified Date: November 02, 2020