Panel Paper: The Geography of Occupational Concentration Among Low-Skilled Immigrants

Friday, November 9, 2018
Marriott Balcony A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Cathy Liu, Georgia State University and Eric Joseph van Holm, Arizona State University

The prevalence of ethnic niches in organizing immigrants’ employment is a salient feature of urban labor markets. While previous studies have documented the importance and characteristics of occupational concentration of immigrants in different cities, we know little about the degree and variation of such concentration dynamics across cities, their changes over time, and the associated shaping factors.

Using U.S. Census Data, we trace the occupational niches occupied by low-skilled immigrants from 1990 to 2010 to account for changes over time and document the relative (in)consistency of such concentrations to see whether low-skilled immigrants expanded into a greater number of occupations. We also performed such analysis for Asian and Latino immigrants separately to examine their respective niches. We then adopt Herfindahl-Hirschman index (HHI) to numerically represent the relative concentration of immigrants across occupations for the two decades nationally as well as for the top 100 MSAs (by immigrant population in 1990). Lastly we explore what metropolitan contexts help explain the variation in HHI across MSAs for 2000, 2010 respectively using lagged variables. We test whether metropolitan areas with larger immigrant population and more diverse economic structure would enable low-skilled immigrants to penetrate into greater range of occupations and foster their occupational mobility. We are also interested in the roles minimum wage and union density play.

This research will highlight the occupational structure and its change over time for low-skilled immigrants in various metropolitan areas and shed light on what metropolitan contexts explain their variations. Results have important implications for workforce and economic development planning that match immigrants to jobs with their skills.