Where Do Green Jobs and Growing Latino Populations Overlap?

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

Photo: Green Jobs Now
Photo: Green Jobs Now

In a new report using data from the 2010 Census and Brookings Institution, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) identified the five top areas in America where Latinos are poised to fill growing roles in the burgeoning sustainable economy.

According to the report, the “bright green” metro areas are:

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  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • McAllen, Texas
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Los Angeles, California

I’m from McAllen, and the strong rating for my hometown, which is 91 percent Hispanic, didn’t surprise me.  What was surprising and unusual was the inclusion of traditionally non-Latino metro areas such as Knoxville and Little Rock.  The report is based not only on growth, but also on the percent/share and size of the Latino workforce.  Therefore, places with great, new potential for impact, such as Little Rock and Knoxville, rise to the top. These cities have Latino populations under 10 percent, but they are quickly gaining ground.

Because the economic recovery in early 2013 is still weak, it’s important to invest in education to prepare people for a sector like sustainability, which is growing and likely here to stay.  So far, the trend points toward growth in the green sector, especially as a strong majority (87 percent) of Hispanic workers would rather work with clean energy than fossil fuels.

Beyond their environmental benefits, green jobs consistently tend to pay more than their traditional counterparts, a potential boon for many low-wage earning Latinos.  Fortunately, most work in the sustainable sector does not require as much higher education, which could create employment opportunities for the 88% of Latinos having less than a bachelor’s degree.

Where are these low-wage green jobs?  While the industries vary by area, they are found in public transportation/mass transit jobs—McAllen spent much of the last decade improving its bus system—recycling center collectors, office support positions for green-focused companies, regulators, and efficient transport.  New jobs are also being added in the solar energy sector and energy-efficient construction.  In all of these areas, a growing Hispanic population may seek to fill in a growing employment sector as the recovery takes hold.

For its part, the City of Knoxville appointed a Director of Sustainability to coordinate its efforts.  Currently, the Director, Susannah Sutherland, said her city will continue making green jobs a priority.

“Knoxville is excited by the potential outlined in this research,” said Sutherland.  “Much of our grant funding provided education for entering and excelling in the workforce—in fields such as solar instillation and energy-efficient construction—and we intend to use the recommendations in this report to increase the outreach and scope of these efforts.”

As the United States works toward recovery and “bright green” hotspots, such as Little Rock, Albuquerque, Knoxville, Los Angeles, and McAllen, showcase the opportunities found in the emerging green sector, we’re reminded that Latinos are ready to be part of the solution.  The growth of green jobs reflects a welcome change for the better by increasing earnings for vulnerable communities and making a difference for our planet. 

Check out the full report here!

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