Playing Catch Up: Legalization and the Occupational Mobility Trajectories of Unauthorized Latin American Immigrants

Blake Sisk, Vanderbilt University

Unauthorized experience is common among Latin American immigrants in the United States that receive legal permanent residence. However, few recent studies have examined how transitioning from unauthorized to legal status acts as a mechanism of occupational mobility for immigrants. Using panel data from the New Immigrant Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, I examine how labor market outcome-generating processes change over time for previously unauthorized Latin American immigrant men and three comparison groups: unauthorized immigrants, legal immigrants, and US-born Hispanics. This analysis uses an innovative dependent variable that measures the respondent’s position in their regional occupational hierarchy. Results indicate that immigrants that transition from unauthorized to legal are the only group to experience structural change in how their labor market outcomes are generated over time. Post-legalization labor market gains for previously unauthorized immigrants are primarily attributable to increased returns to human capital characteristics.

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Presented in Poster Session 8