Saturday, April 7, 2007

Channeling Migrants into Industrial Sectors

Ellis, Mark, and Richard Wright. 1999. “The Industrial Division of Labor among Internal Migrants to the Los Angeles Economy.” International Migration Review 33(1): 26-54.

This article seeks to identify the processes by which groups of native- and foreign-born migrants are channeled into particular industrial sectors. Ellis and Wright (1999) present a comparison of the employment of recent arrivals and the residents of several ethnic groups in the regional economy of Los Angeles, California Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA). The study also takes into consideration educational attainment and the qualifications which play a role in the distribution of migrant groups into particular occupations.

Ellis and Wright (1999) note that in the 1970s and -80s, since migrants to Southern California faced an array of jobs, then a portion of the new arrivals from each migrant racial group should have come to occupy jobs that were outside of “existing ethnic employment concentrations” (p.30). The proportions of new arrivals filtering into certain jobs vary, due to three possible reasons. The strength of ethnic group networks relaying job information between residents and migrants is a variable upon which the chances of new migrants finding work in an ethnic niche depends. The second reason for different proportions of new arrivals in certain jobs is the size of a racial-ethnic group’s work force (that constitutes of residents), in relation to the racial-ethnic group’s immigrants. If the migrant flow of a racial-ethnic group’s new arrivals is small, relative to the group’s residential work force in a particular job, then the new arrivals may more easily posit into the ethnic niches. It follows, then, that if the migrant flow of a racial-ethnic group’s new arrivals is large, relative to the size of the group’s work force, then not all of the group’s immigrants will be able to occupy the ethnic niche. As a result, migrants may occupy other sectors in which there is no existing concentration of the racial-ethnic group. The last factor that influences the dispersal of migrants of racial-ethnic groups into particular occupations is the different levels of education and skills required for certain jobs. The greater the skill differences between residents and migrants, then the greater the difference between the distributions in employment of co-ethnic residents and migrants. Migrants utilize ethnic networks and skills to find employment.

Ethnic networks serve as a more efficient source of employment for racial-ethnic groups’ immigrants than for the group’s native residents. However, not all of these groups’ networks are strong. The utilization of a combination of resources, such as ethnic networks, education, and most importantly, skill, influences the allocation of immigrant racial-ethnic groups into occupational sectors.

The data used for the study was obtained from the Public use Micro Samples of the U.S. Census (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1983, 1993). The study defined four major categories of workers: resident native-born, resident foreign-born, recent in-migrant, and recent immigrant. While the study analyzes aggregate employment patterns of in-migrant and immigrant groups, the majority of the research consists of the comparison of individual groups. The six largest immigrant groups were analyzed. Making up 72% of the immigrants into Los Angeles CMSA between 1985 and 1990, these groups – Mexicans, Salvadorans, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Koreans, and Chinese – each have more than 10,000 recent migrants in the work force, thus providing for sufficient numbers for a significant analysis of the economy of the Los Angeles region.

The employment distribution of Filipino residents is closest to that of Filipino immigrants. Filipinos, Koreans, and Chinese immigrants occupy sectors in which these groups’ residents work. Mexicans, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan residents are the least likely to have co-ethnic immigrants occupy their sectors.

Ellis and Wright note a division of labor by education within groups of native white, black, Chinese and Filipino migrants. In the case of Koreans, however, recent arrivals and Korean-born residents work in the same sectors at all levels of education. Regardless of years of education, new Mexican arrivals occupy the same sectors as the least educated residents (of all racial-ethnic groups). Unlike other racial-ethnic groups, Mexicans do not concentrate into sectors in which co-ethnic residents are employed.

Future Research: As the data is somewhat dated by about 20 years, newer information would be more useful. Future research could explore any changes in the economic and social structure, in terms of availability of certain jobs, of Los Angeles, as well as take into account new patterns of immigrant waves.

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