Demographic Analysis of the Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Skilled Trades Industries

Report by Elizabeth Morehead, PhD, Sheila Martin, PhD
April 7, 2015

Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies   (Portland*)

While the American economy has been characterized by increasing labor-market polarization over the past decade, recent growth in mid-wage, mid-skill jobs holds promise for workers looking for an opportunity to earn a self-sufficient wage.

By July of this year, the economy had added over 900,000 middle-income positions, matching the pace of growth in high-wage fields, and outpacing growth in low-wage occupations (Chandra and Stilwell, 2014). Many of these mid-wage and mid-skill jobs can be found in healthcare, production, and the skilled trades, specifically construction and extraction, and installation, maintenance, and repair.

Many of these jobs offer an opportunity to earn higher wages than low-skill jobs but don’t require a significant investment in education. Some might require a post-secondary credential or an associate degree, but many require only a high school diploma. These jobs can therefore offer a path to self-sufficiency that may be overlooked by some workers, particularly people of color and English language learners (ELL) who may face barriers to formal higher education.

The purpose of this report is to investigate the extent to which these occupations might offer opportunity for people of color and English language learners. The key questions of the study are:
          • What is the percentage of people of color in the manufacturing, skilled trades, and health care fields compared to the total employed workforce?
          • Which occupations in these fields most commonly employ people of color and noncitizens?
          • What is the wage profile within these fields?
          • How common are English language learners among these occupations?