Hispanic workers, on track to become the biggest ethnic group in California's work force, earn significantly less than the state's other ethnic groups, according to a study released today.

The study, by the California Research Bureau, found that Hispanic workers, who make up about 28 percent of the state's work force, earned an average annual salary of $14,560. By comparison, the median salary for all workers in the state last year was $21,000. Broken down by ethnic group, the median salary was $27,000 for whites, $24,000 for Asians and $23,000 for blacks.

Members of the state's Latino Legislative Caucus, which commissioned the report, said lack of education was a primary reason for the salary disparity, noting that more than 45 percent of Hispanic workers do not have a high school diploma.

"If we are able to realize a long-term goal of raising the level of educational attainment of Latinos to that of non-Latinos, the result would be $28 billion in increased earnings circulating in our economy," said state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles).

"There are people out there in California who are not making a fair salary, who are not being able to attain education in this state, and that is a sad state of affairs," said state Rep. Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno).

Hispanics are expected to become the largest group of workers in California by 2025.