"We Wanted Employers, but We Got People Instead" Racialization of Ethnicity in the US Labor Market

Authors: Carlos Becerra*, UC Davis Geography Graduate Group
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Immigration/Transnationalism, Economic Geography
Keywords: Racialization, Labor Market, Occupational Status, Hispanic/Latino Studies, Ethnicity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8226, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores how immigrants’ ethnic identification influences their occupational status attainment in the United States’ labor market. Data from the American Community Survey from 2000 to 2016 are divided into ethnic categories to compare how immigrant workers fare vis-à-vis US-born workers. It uses interactions between educational attainment, immigration status, English proficiency, and geographic distribution to predict the variance in occupational status between and within ethnic groups. Descriptive findings confirm the significant effect of these determinants on status scores. As expected, having a higher level of education, holding a legal immigration status, and being fluent in English have positive effects on occupational status attainment, other things being equal. This positive relationship, however, is not equally manifested across ethnic groups. The study reveals that a significant percentage of these predictors’ explanatory power is lost among some ethnic groups, strongly suggesting a patterned and significant effect of labor market discrimination. Furthermore, contrast analysis of the predictive margins of the four-way interacted model provides compelling evidence in support of negative exclusionary discrimination against some immigrant groups, especially Mexicans and Central Americans. This negative effect is especially evident among highly educated Mexicans and Central Americans, who, despite their legal status, and English fluency, tend to be more likely to work in lower status occupations than their immigrant counterparts. This finding questions previously established notions according to which maximizing human capital, possessing legal immigrant status, and being fluent in English pave the way to the successful integration of immigrants into the U.S. labor market.

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