Essential Workers: Immigrant Transportation Workers in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD Metro Areas

Essential Workers: Immigrant Transportation Workers in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD Metro Areas Image

Workers in the Transportation industry deliver food, water, medicine, medical supplies, fuel, and other essentials throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis. They work closely with workers in other sectors such as retail in order to deliver products on time and stock up stores with food and supplies that people need. Furthermore, Transportation workers are responsible for distributing the necessary supplies to hospitals for doctors, first responders, emergency technicians and medical personnel. At the same time, these workers are also facing a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19, due to the nature of their work. These workers do not have the option to telework and they frequently come in contact with colleagues or the public at their workplace.

Immigrant workers in the Transportation industry represent large shares of the workers who work in the transportation industry. In the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD metro areas, there are approximately 199,500 workers in the essential Transportation industry.[1] Immigrants constitute 27 percent of the workforce in this industry (approximately 53,200).  It is important to note that industries are the types of businesses a firm is involved in and occupations are the tasks or functions performed by individual workers within a business. Workers within an industry can work in any occupation. Within the essential Transportation industry, the top five occupations with the highest total counts of immigrant workers are: taxi drivers (approximately 10,800), truck drivers (9,300), shuttle drivers and chauffeurs (5,700), laborers and freight, stock, material movers (2,200), and postal service mail carriers (1,800).

This analysis will focus on key socio-demographic information about immigrant workers in the Transportation industry as well as on immigrant taxi drivers and immigrant truck drivers who make up 38 percent of all foreign-born workers in the Transportation industry.

Country of Origin, Race and Ethnicity, and Gender Distribution

Ethiopia is the top country of origin for immigrants in the Transportation industry. Thirteen percent of foreign-born workers are from Ethiopia, while other workers come from El Salvador, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria. When looking at the top two occupations, Ethiopia remains the top country of origin for immigrant taxi drivers (24 percent) and El Salvador is the top country of birth for immigrant truck drivers (23 percent). Interestingly, 34 percent of immigrant taxi drivers are from countries in Africa such as Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria, while 34 percent of immigrant truck drivers are from Central America.

In terms of race, 40 percent of immigrant workers in the Transportation industry are Black and 25 percent are Asian. When looking at the top two occupations, half of the taxi drivers identify as Black (50 percent) or and 28 percent identify as Asian. Truck drivers are more likely to be White (35 percent), Black (25 percent) or of other race (23 percent).

With respect to ethnicity, only about one-quarter (23 percent) of immigrant workers in the Transportation industry identify as Hispanic (who can be of any race). This percent is smaller among taxi drivers where only 8 percent identify as Hispanic. However, this trend changes among immigrant truck drivers; almost half of them identify as Hispanic (48 percent), which is consistent with their countries of origin.

The overall majority of both foreign- and native-born workers in the Transportation industry as a whole are male. However, foreign-born workers are slightly more likely to be male compared to their native-born counterparts. Eighty-one percent of foreign-born workers in the Transportation industry are males compared to 70 percent of native-born. This trend also holds in the top two occupations within the industry.

Year of Immigration, Citizenship Status, and English Proficiency

Large shares of foreign-born workers in the Transportation industry have lived in the United States for a long time. More than half (54 percent) of the immigrant workers in the Transportation industry arrived in the United States prior to 2000, while only 14 percent of them arrived since 2010. When looking at the top two occupations, immigrant taxi drivers have been in the United States longer than immigrant truck drivers; specifically, 56 percent of immigrant taxi drivers arrived in the United States before 2000 compared to 47 percent immigrant truck drivers. Immigrant truck drivers are more likely to have arrived in the United States between 2000 and 2010 (42 percent) compared to taxi drivers (30 percent).

Sixty-two percent of immigrant workers in the Transportation industry are naturalized U.S. citizens, which is consistent with how long they have been in the United States. With respect to the top two occupations, immigrant taxi drivers are slightly more likely to be naturalized citizens (52 percent) compared to immigrant truck drivers (48 percent). One of the reasons for this difference might be the fact that immigrant truck drivers tend to have arrived in the United States more recently than taxi drivers.

Sixty-four percent of immigrant workers in the Transportation industry are proficient in English (speak English well or very well). Immigrant taxi drivers are more likely to be proficient in English (64 percent) compared to immigrant truck drivers (57 percent).

Personal Income

Despite being essential workers, the majority of native-born and foreign-born workers in the Transportation industry earn less than $40,000 per year. Foreign-born workers tend to earn less than their native-born counterparts. Specifically, more than half of the immigrant workers in the Transportation industry earn less than $40,000 compared to 46 percent of native-born workers. Similarly, foreign-born taxi drivers earn less than native-born taxi drivers. Alarmingly, 8 out of 10 immigrant taxi drivers earn less than $40,000 per year. Overall, truck drivers earn more than taxi drivers, but immigrant truck drivers earn less compared to native-born truck drivers. Specifically, 59 percent of immigrant truck drivers earn less than $40,000 per year compared to 42 percent of native-born truck drivers.

 

[1]The IIR defines the following the essential retail industry as: Air transportation, rail transportation, water transportation, truck transportation, bus service and urban transit, taxi and limousine service, pipeline transportation, scenic and sightseeing transportation, services incidental to transportation, postal service, couriers and messengers, warehousing and storage.