Weathering the Storm? Employment Transitions of Low-Skill Foreign-Born Mexicans and U.S.-Born Whites, 2003-2011

Blake Sisk, Vanderbilt University
Katharine M. Donato, Vanderbilt University

Two bodies of social science literature generate contradictory expectations for the Mexican employment experience during the recent recession. Explanations based on human capital theory would posit that, among workers with comparable educational and work experience, Mexican immigrants would experience similar levels of unemployment as whites. Hypotheses based on work that highlights the “distinctiveness” of Mexican immigrants’ labor market position would expect that factors like employer preferences and immigrant flexibility would lead to more favorable employment outcomes for Mexicans relative to similarly educated workers. Using matched CPS data from 2003-2011 to examine employment transitions among workers with less than high school, we find support for the “distinctiveness” theory. Mexican immigrants were more likely to maintain employment and less likely to transition from employment to unemployment than whites. However, Mexicans experienced high levels of involuntary part-time employment during the recession, suggesting that their relative success was not without its costs.

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Presented in Poster Session 6