We next examine the early life-cycle patterns of schooling and work for Hispanics relative to blacks and whites, using data on cohorts who reached adulthood during the late 1980s and 1990s. In this analysis, we focus on two issues arising from the role that the Hispanic educational deficit plays in accounting for their relative employment and earnings differentials. First, we examine exactly what sorts and amounts of work experience Hispanics accumulated during early adulthood. We know that they accumulated less education over their early adulthood. But do they compensate by accumulating more work experience to offset some of their educational deficit? Second, we examine whether Hispanics realized the same financial returns from their accumulated work experience and schooling. Previous studies of other minority groups suggest that they do not realize the same gain from an additional year of schooling or work experience as do whites. Whether these differences reflect evidence of labor market discrimination or unmeasured differences in the quality of schooling and the amount of actual work experience is less certain. But at issue is whether observed measures of human capital have different impacts on the degree of labor market success by race or ethnicity.
In the final section of the chapter, we focus on how the labor market attainment of Hispanics in the United States has changed over time and across generations. Analyzing whether there has been secular and generational progress among Hispanics in the United States is important for at least three reasons. First, our analysis was performed on Hispanics during a period of substantial change in the structure of the U.S. labor market, which tended to be decidedly less favorable for less-skilled workers in the United States. As a result, it is important to assess, if only somewhat speculatively, how important this restructuring was for the lower levels of labor market attainment experienced by Hispanics. Second, knowing how things have changed is an essential ingredient for forecasting what will happen to the labor market attainment of this growing and increasingly important segment of the U.S. population. Third, assessing how things have changed across generations is essential because of the immigrant nature of Hispanics. The immigrants of today will be the parents and grandparents of future generations of Hispanics, and it is of critical importance to understand the degree of their intergenerational assimilation into the U.S. labor market.
Time and time again, researchers have found that indicators of labor market disadvantage for U.S. Hispanics, such as earnings deficits or em-