You wouldn’t know it from the national discourse on immigration, but the number of Mexican immigrant workers in the U.S. continues to fall and nowhere is this more prevalent than in California. According to the American Community Survey, the number of California workers who are Mexican immigrants fell by 195,000 between 2007 and 2017, a dip of 7 percent. California’s decline of 195,000 Mexican immigrant workers was larger than the combined loss of 183,000 workers across the other 19 states that posted decreases between 2007 and 2017.
Yet the picture is much more complex in the country, but especially in California. Workers who are not naturalized citizens have declined, while those who are naturalized citizens have increased.
The major decline involves the largest and most traditional segment of Mexican immigrants — men who are not naturalized citizens — with 35 states experiencing a decline in this segment of the workforce. California led the way with the number of workers who are Mexican immigrant men without U.S. citizenship plunging by approximately 24 percent. There were 319,000 fewer noncitizen Mexican immigrant men workers in California in 2017 compared with a decade earlier.
The drop was consistent across the 2007-2017 period, aside from a minuscule uptick between 2013 and 2014. The descent was particularly noticeable with the start of the Trump administration. The California workforce of Mexican immigrant men who are not naturalized fell by 92,000 workers between 2016 and 2017 or an 8 percent decline, the most significant annual percentage dip across the last decade.
The number of California workers who are Mexican immigrant women without naturalization status also dropped by more than 24,000 or a percentage decline of 4 percent, compared with most states that posted gains in this group. The California workforce decline among noncitizen Mexican women was especially noticeable in Trump’s first year in office as the numbers fell by an unprecedented 8 percent between 2016 and 2017 or an absolute decline of more than 45,000 in the last year.
In contrast, California experienced an increase of about 149,000 Mexican immigrant workers who are naturalized citizens between 2007 and 2017, an upswing of 20 percent. The gain of 149,000 naturalized citizens could not offset the loss of 344,000 workers who are not naturalized citizens. The growth of Mexican immigrant workers who are U.S. citizens was widespread across the country with only seven states posting losses in this group of workers.
The major changes in California’s Mexican immigrant workforce has resulted in a significant shift in the demographic and socioeconomic profile of Mexican immigrant workers in the state. The sex ratio (number of males per 100 females) fell from 200 in 2007 to 164 in 2017. The percentage of Mexican immigrant workers who are naturalized citizens rose from 27 percent in 2007 to 35 percent in 2017. The percentage who are fluent in English increased from 50 percent in 2007 to 60 percent in 2017. The percentage of persons 25 and older who completed a high school degree or higher climbed from 44 percent in 2007 to 51 percent in 2017.
The decline in Mexican immigrant workers without U.S. citizenship is part of Trump’s plan to round up and deport unauthorized immigrants and to keep out others from gaining entry. These measures to slash the number of immigrants, while being short-sighted and done for political posturing, come at a time when the nation’s white population, especially in California, is rapidly aging. Between 2007 and 2017, the California white workforce declined by 468,000 workers or a drop of 6 percent. The loss of white workers is widespread with 36 states having fewer white employees in 2017 than in 2007, led by California and including also Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The percentage of the California workforce that is white plunged from 46 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2017. Whites accounted for 63 percent of U.S. workers in 2017. The share of whites in the state’s and nation’s workforce will continue to slip in the coming decades.
Efforts to significantly curtail immigration in the U.S. will come back to haunt the country in the coming decades as it will undoubtedly have to import immigrants to sustain its workforce.